‘Burning faster than firefighters can run’
Firefighters could find the dangers only increasing
Thousands of firefighters battled two dozen blazes in Northern California on Thursday — along with wind gusts of up to 45 mph. And the worst may be yet to come: Forecasters warn that a new round of winds expected late Friday into Sunday may not only hamper the efforts of firefighters but also further spread the flames. At least 28 people have been killed.
Thousands of firefighters battling two dozen deadly fires in Northern California faced another round of rapidly deteriorating conditions Thursday with a forecast of low humidity and winds gusts of up to 45 mph — with no hint of rain.
Conditions were not expected to improve. Winds, including a new round expected late Friday into Sunday, may not only hamper the efforts of firefighters but also increase the risk of new hot spots, forecasters warned.
The death toll increased to at least 28. About 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed.
“Red flag ” warnings of dangerous conditions were in effect for much of Northern California and have been extended from Big Sur to the Santa Cruz mountains.
Gov. Jerry Brown has issued emergency declarations for Napa, Sonoma and Yuba Butte, Lake, Mendocino, Nevada, Orange and Solano counties.
“It’s going to continue to get worse before it gets better,” state fire chief Ken Pimlott warned.
The biggest blaze, called the Tubbs Fire, was only 10% contained on Thursday.
Chaotic evacuations and poor communications have made find- ing friends and family difficult. Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano said hundreds were still missing, although officials believe many of those — almost 400 — will be found. The death toll could climb, he said: “The devastation is enormous.”
Authorities have thrown vast resources at the fire, including more than 70 helicopters, 30 air tankers and 550 firetrucks.
“We are at very low containment on most of these,” said Mark Ghilarducci, director of the state Office of Emergency Services. “These fires are literally burning faster than firefighters can run.”
Several communities ordered last-minute evacuations ahead of the fast-moving fires, including the historic resort town of Calistoga, population 5,300, famous for its wine tastings and hot springs.
The few people who remained in Calistoga overnight awoke to smoky skies and a light ashfall but no actual fire in the town.
In the early hours after the fire broke out, Sonoma County fire and emergency officials discussed sending out an Amber Alert-style message to cellphones but decided against it because the message would have gone to thousands of people not in immediate danger, SFGate.com reports.
Almost 200,000 acres have gone up in flames, with no relief in sight.
Most of the Journeys End mobile home community in Santa Rosa, Calif., burned this week.