California wildfires kill at least 31 people
Firefighters faced another round of dry, windy conditions yesterday as they battled wildfires that have killed at least 31 people in Northern California and left hundreds missing in the heart of wine country.
The most lethal wildfire event in California’s history has killed people while they asleep in their beds and prompted authorities to evacuate thousands of residents, warning anyone deciding to wait it out: “You are on your own.” The toll from the more than 20 fires raging across eight counties could climb, with more than 400 people in Sonoma County alone still listed as missing.
Winds of up to 100km/h and humidity of just 10 per cent were expected to create “critical fire weather conditions” and “contribute to extreme fire behaviour” yesterday afternoon and into today, the National Weather Service said.
A force of 8,000 firefighters is working to reinforce and extend buffer lines across the region where the flames have scorched more than 190,000 acres (77,000 hectares), an area nearly the size of New York City.
With 3,500 homes and businesses incinerated, the so-called North Bay fires have reduced whole neighbourhoods in the city of Santa Rosa to smouldering ruins dotted with charred trees and burnt-out cars.