Cities evacuated as wildfires leave 26 dead
SEARCH-AND-RESCUE TEAMS have started looking for bodies in parts of California wine country devastated by wildfires as the death toll last night reached 26.
Some 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed by the blazes, which could become the deadliest and most destructive in the US state’s history. Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano said officials were still investigating hundreds of reports of missing people and that recovery teams would soon begin conducting “targeted searches” for specific residents at their last-known addresses.
“We have found bodies almost completely intact and we have found bodies that were nothing more than ash and bones,” Mr Giordano said.
Winds of up to 45mph were expected in areas north of San Francisco and stronger, more erratic gusts were forecast for today. Those conditions could erase modest gains made by firefighters.
“We are not out of this emergency. We are not even close to being out of this emergency,” emergency operations director Mark Ghilarducci said.
More than 8,000 firefighters were battling the blazes and more manpower and equipment was pouring in from across the country and from as far away as Australia and Canada, officials said.
The ferocious fires that started on Sunday levelled entire residential areas in parts of Sonoma and Napa counties.
Officials are investigating whether downed power lines or other utility failures could have sparked the fires.