Struggle to contain raging fires
Firefighters struggled to halt the spread of wildfires that have killed at least 23 people in Northern California and dry, gusty winds threatened yesterday to push flames into the evacuated town of Calistoga.
Nearly two dozen fires spanning eight counties have raged largely unchecked since igniting on Sunday, leaving hundreds of residents unaccounted for.
The National Weather Service warned yesterday morning of persistent “critical fire weather conditions” in the area for the next three days, with no rain expected and dry winds from the north with gusts upward of 55 km/h.
The deadliest of California’s blazes, known as the Tubbs fire, was within three kilometres of Calistoga — a community in the worldrenowned Napa Valley wine country whose 5 000 residents were told to leave their homes on Wednesday.
Whether the town burns “is going to depend on the wind,” Calistoga’s fire chief Steve Campbell told Reuters early yesterday. “High winds are predicted but we have not received them yet.”
New evacuations also were issued in Sonoma County on Wednesday for parts of Santa Rosa — the largest city in the wineproducing region, and Geyserville — an unincorporated town of 800 people.
The fires have already charred about 69 000 hectares of land and destroyed some 3 500 buildings. Neighbourhoods have been reduced to panoramas of ash, charred trees and burnedout cars.
While their cause has not been deter mined, the blazes are thought to have been sparked by power lines toppled by galeforce winds and fanned by arid winds that blew into Northern California toward the Pacific.
Wildfires have damaged or demolished at least 13 Napa Valley wineries, a vintners’ trade group said on Tuesday.
About 25 000 people remained displaced on Wednesday as the fires belched smoke that drifted south over the San Francisco Bay area. More than 285 people still were missing in Sonoma County late on Wednesday night, the sheriff said on Twitter. It was unclear how many might be fire victims rather than evacuees who had not checked in with authorities.
A San Diego Cal Fire firefighter monitors a wildfire flareup above the Sonoma Valley in Sonoma, California. Firefighters struggled to halt the spread of wildfires yesterday that have killed at least 23 people in Northern California.
Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) trucks are seen parked on a road between homes destroyed by the Tubbs fire in Santa Rosa, California.