Thousands flee as wildfires ravage Northern California; 11 killed
At least 11 people were killed and more than 100 were injured as massive wildfires swept through parts of California, destroying 1,500 residences and buildings, authorities said.
Firefighters were battling 17 fires across multiple counties around the state as of late on Monday night, authorities said. Intensified by strong winds, the fires charred about 90,000 acres of land, destroyed at least 1,500 buildings and forced nearly 20,000 residents to evacuate.
St. Joseph Health said about 170 patients have been treated, many for burns and smoke inhalation, at three of its hospitals, including two in Sonoma County, where at least seven people died of fire-related injuries. The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said the number of fatalities could increase. Authorities have received more than 100 phone calls to report on people who were purportedly missing, according to one Sonoma County official.
Sonoma County Sgt. Spencer Crum told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos today on “GMA” the county has asked everyone to “help us out” in the battle against the blaze.
The shifting gusts that had been dogging firefighters have receded, he added.
“The night before this we had 60 mph winds which is the reason why you have such devastation here,” Crum said.
Crum confirmed that the alert system put in place gave residents ample time to evacuate and likely prevented certain deaths.
“We have a subscription service where we can alert our residents and we did that right away, trying to notify everybody where the fire was, where it was going and how fast it was going and I think it saved a lot of lives,” said Crum.
Officials with the California Highway Patrol described one of the dead as an elderly woman who was blind and hard of hearing, according to ABC’s San Francisco station KGO. The woman was found dead in the driveway of her home in Santa Rosa, according to the officials, who suspected that she may have been trying to escape the flames when she died.
Details on the other victims have not been released yet.
Two of the largest fires, dubbed the Tubbs and Atlas Fires by authorities, burned a combined 52,000 acres of land in Sonoma and Napa counties.
In Anaheim, 1,000 firefighters were mobilized to fight a blaze that burned an estimated 6,000 acres and destroyed at least 24 homes and businesses. At least 3,000 residents were evacuated in and around Anaheim and more than 5,000 structures were threatened by the flames.
California Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties.
With the flames sweeping through entire communities, some area hospitals have been evacuated. Evacuations were also issued for surrounding counties that are under threat, according to the Napa Valley Sheriff’s Office.
Many residents have been warned not to return to their homes until further notice.