California wildfires disaster could ‘get worse’
WILDFIRES already well on their way to becoming the deadliest and most destructive in California history could gain momentum this week and erase even the modest gains firefighters have made.
Steady winds with gusts up to 45mph with nearly non-existent humidity are expected to descend on the 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 on Wednesday.
Entire cities had evacuated in anticipation of the next wave, their streets empty, the only motion coming from ashes falling like snowflakes.
They included Calistoga, the historic resort town of wine tastings and hot springs, whose 5,300 people are under evacuation orders.
Tens of thousands more were also driven from their homes by the flames.
A few left cookies for firefighters and signs reading “Please save our home!”
The 22 fires spanned more than 265 square miles as they entered their fourth day, many of them completely out of control. Modern, strategic attacks that have kept destruction and death tolls low in recent years just have not worked against their ferocity.
“We are literally looking at explosive vegetation,” Mr Pimlott said. “Make no mistake, this is a serious, critical, catastrophic event.”
Fires were “burning faster than firefighters can run, in some situations”, emergency operations director Mark Ghilarducci added.