Wild­fires scorch wine coun­try

The Commercial Appeal - - Front Page -

Wind-whipped fires sweep­ing across Cal­i­for­nia’s wine coun­try Mon­day burned hun­dreds of homes and forced thou­sands to flee com­mu­ni­ties, hos­pi­tals and winer­ies ahead of the hard-charg­ing flames.

Cal­i­for­nia De­part­ment of Forestry and Fire Pro­tec­tion Chief Kim Pim­lott es­ti­mated 1,500 homes, build­ings and other struc­tures were de­stroyed and up to 20,000 peo­ple evac­u­ated. Gov. Jerry Brown de­clared a state of emer­gency and mo­bi­lized the Na­tional Guard to help com­bat the cri­sis.

The fire erupted dur­ing the fall’s first sig­nif­i­cant blast of Santa Ana winds, the sea­sonal gusts linked to some of the re­gion’s worst wild­fires.

In Santa Rosa, 50 miles north of San Fran­cisco in Sonoma County, “fast-mov­ing fires” com­pelled au­thor­i­ties to con­tin­u­ally ex­panded the area of manda­tory evac­u­a­tions. More than a dozen evac­u­a­tion cen­ters were opened, though some quickly filled.

The Sut­ter Santa Rosa Hospi­tal evac­u­ated its 80 pa­tients; the hospi­tal re­ported on so­cial me­dia that “all pa­tients and staff are safe.” Kaiser Per­ma­nente’s Santa Rosa med­i­cal cen­ter evac­u­ated 130 pa­tients.

“Leave im­me­di­ately,” the Po­lice De­part­ment warned res­i­dents on Face­book af­ter the fire jumped a free­way. “This is a life threat­en­ing sit­u­a­tion.”

Mar­ian Wil­liams said she car­a­vanned with neigh­bors through the flames as one of the wild­fires reached the vine­yards near her home in Ken­wood.

“It was an in­ferno like you’ve never seen be­fore,” she said. “Trees were on fire like torches.”

The Na­tional Weather Ser­vice is­sued a “red flag” warn­ing — crit­i­cal fire con­di­tions — for the re­gion, cit­ing high winds and low hu­mid­ity. “Any fires that de­velop will likely spread rapidly,” the weather ser­vice warned.

In Napa County, east of Sonoma, one fire burned 200 acres and forced the evac­u­a­tion of hun­dreds of homes and busi­nesses. An­other fire strad­dling the two coun­ties bal­looned from 200 acres to 20,000 acres.

In Marin County, the Sher­iff’s Of­fice said it was over­whelmed with calls based on smoke blow­ing into the county from the north.

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