Winds ex­pected to drive next wave of deadly Cal­i­for­nia fires

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - CLASSIFIEDS/WORLD -

Gust­ing winds and dry air fore­cast for Thurs­day drove the next wave of dev­as­tat­ing wild­fires that are al­ready well on their way to be­com­ing the dead­li­est and most de­struc­tive in Cal­i­for­nia his­tory.

Winds up to 72 kilo­me­tres per hour pum­melled ar­eas north of San Francisco where at least 23 peo­ple have died and at least 3,500 homes and busi­nesses have been de­stroyed.

“It’s go­ing to con­tinue to get worse be­fore it gets bet­ter,” state fire Chief Ken Pim­lott said.

En­tire cities had evac­u­ated in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the next round of flames, their streets empty, the only mo­tion com­ing from ashes fall­ing like snowflakes.

In Cal­is­toga, a his­toric re­sort town known for wine tast­ings and hot springs, 5,300 peo­ple were un­der evac­u­a­tion or­ders.

Tens of thou­sands more have been driven from their homes by the flames.

A few left be­hind cook­ies for fire­fight­ers and signs read­ing, “Please save our home!”

The 22 fires, many out of con­trol, spanned more than 686 square kilo­me­tres as the in­ferno en­tered its fourth day.

Strate­gic at­tacks that have kept wild­fire de­struc­tion and death tolls low in re­cent years haven’t worked against the fe­roc­ity of the blazes.

“We are lit­er­ally look­ing at ex­plo­sive veg­e­ta­tion,” Pim­lott said.

“Make no mis­take,” he added later, “this is a se­ri­ous, crit­i­cal, cat­a­strophic event.”

Of­fi­cials say fire crews have some progress on the dead­li­est fire in Sonoma County, bring­ing con­tain­ment to 10 per cent.

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