Fires rav­age Cal­i­for­nia wine coun­try

Marlborough Express - - WORLD -

UNITED STATES: Wild­fires pushed by warm winds and fu­elled by dry ground have swept through Cal­i­for­nia’s wine coun­try, killing at least 10 peo­ple, in­jur­ing nu­mer­ous oth­ers and torch­ing more than 1500 homes and busi­nesses.

State fire of­fi­cials have warned that weather con­di­tions, par­tic­u­larly winds that at times ex­ceed 80kmh, are likely to ex­ac­er­bate the fires in the days ahead.

At least 14 blazes are burn­ing in eight north­ern Cal­i­for­nia coun­ties, prompt­ing evac­u­a­tions of more than 20,000 fright­ened res­i­dents, in­clud­ing pa­tients in threat­ened hos­pi­tals.

‘‘This is re­ally se­ri­ous; it’s mov- ing fast,’’ Gov­er­nor Jerry Brown said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence at which he de­clared an emer­gency in three coun­ties.

The fires, which were whipped up on Mon­day, add to what has al­ready been a se­vere wild­fire sea­son in the west­ern US. More than 3.2 mil­lion hectares have burned in at least four states, rais­ing ques­tions from across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum about the con­nec­tion to cli­mate change and for­est man­age­ment prac­tices.

The cur­rent fires had burned more than 28,000ha in north­ern Cal­i­for­nia by yes­ter­day, nearly all of those in Sonoma and Napa coun­ties, the heart­land of the state’s renowned wine in­dus­try.

A smaller but fast-mov­ing fire in Men­do­cino County to the north had killed one per­son, ac­cord­ing to Jonathan Cox, a bat­tal­ion chief and spokesman for Cal Fire. The sher­iff of Sonoma County con­firmed seven deaths there, and Cal Fire con­firmed two more deaths in the At­las Fire in Napa County.

The pace of the burn took fire­fight­ers by sur­prise: The fires charred over 8000ha in about 12 hours, which Cox called ‘‘a phe­nom­e­nal rate of growth’’. He said fire­fight­ers had ‘‘zero per cent’’ con­tain­ment.

The sit­u­a­tion in Santa Rosa, the largest city in Sonoma County, ap­peared dire. The Tubbs fire, as the blaze in Sonoma is known, sped south­west from Cal­is­toga in the Napa Val­ley, jumped High­way 101 and en­tered Santa Rosa.

Will Pow­ers, a Cal Fire rep­re­sen­ta­tive, said the Cal­i­for­nia High­way Pa­trol was evac­u­at­ing some peo­ple by he­li­copter in rural ar­eas of Sonoma, Napa and Lake coun­ties.

Wit­ness ac­counts sug­gested dam­age to the wine in­dus­try could be sig­nif­i­cant. ‘‘It looks like a bomb­ing run,’’ said Joe Nielsen, the wine­maker at Donelan Fam­ily Wines in Sonoma County. ‘‘Just chim­neys and burned-out cars and cooked trees.’’ - Wash­ing­ton Post

PHOTO: REUTERS

The North Bay wild­fires north of San Fran­cisco have left block af­ter block of burned-out prop­er­ties.

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