World :: Wildfires in California wine region leaves 10 dead and thousands evacuated
Several raging wind-whipped fires killed at least 10 people and forced massive evacuations Monday in the area around California's world-famous wine country, as Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency and officials estimated at least 1,500 homes and commercial buildings were destroyed.
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Director Ken Pimlott said an estimated 20,000 people have been evacuated as 14 large fires are zero percent contained. The fires are burning throughout an eight-county swath of Northern California, including Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties.At least 10 people have died as a result of the burning wildfires, officials said Monday night. The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office tweeted that seven deaths were reported in Sonoma County.
The California Fire Public Information Officer tweeted that two people are confirmed dead in Napa County, in addition to one death in Mendocino County.
Other fatalities are expected, according to Pimlott, but damaged areas are difficult to assess as the fires continue to burn.More than 100 people were treated for burns and smoke inhalation from the raging fires, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The city of Santa Rosa has enacted a curfew from sunset until sunrise in mandatory evacuation zones. People in those evacuation zones will be subject to stop, and potential arrest if they refuse to leave those areas, officials said.
During the curfew period, authorities will be looking for looters, the Acting Police Chief Craig Schwartz said. "Right now with these conditions we can't get ahead of this fire and do anything about the forward progress," Napa County Fire Chief Barry Biermann said at a news conference.
A spokesperson for Pacific Gas and Electric told The Associated Press that 114,000 customers were without power.
The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office said there were multiple fires reported around the county, including a "very large fire" that jumped a freeway and spread into the east side of Santa Rosa.
Multiple fires broke out Sunday night as strong winds buffeted the area. Emergency lines were inundated with callers reporting smoke in the area, prompting officials to ask that the public "only use 911 if they see actual unattended flames, or are having another emergency."
The Tubbs Fire between Santa Rosa and Calistoga alone grew from 200 acres to 20,000 acres by Monday morning, CalFire Battalion Chief Jonathan Cox told KTVU.
"This fire is explosive," he said, adding that hundreds, if not thousands of structures were impacted.
Cox said he heard of some people injured while trying to evacuate, but could not be specific.
"We're still saving lives at the moment," he said. "This fire has gotten explosive due to the wind."
In Santa Rosa, Ron Dodds, who told KTVU he was helping his uncle evacuate said people were running red lights, and "there is chaos ensuing."
"It's a scary time," Dodds said. "It looks like Armageddon."
Patients from Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health hospitals were evacuated early Monday from Santa Rosa and taken to other nearby hospitals or make-shift hospitals, according to KTVU.