10 dead as Wine Country fires burn at least 1,500 structures, force evacuations

“A swarm of fires supercharged by powerful winds ripped through Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties Monday, killing at least 10 people, injuring dozens of others, destroying more than 1,500 homes and businesses, and turning prominent wineries to ash,” as the San Francisco Chronicle is reporting

“Starting in the middle of the night, the fires hopscotched across neighborhoods, raced across fields and jumped freeways. Wind gusts up to 70 mph pushed walls of flames nearly 100 feet high, throwing embers ahead like hot fingers into strip malls and subdivisions. Many people who fled the surge had enough time to grab car keys, perhaps a pet, but not much more.

“And some didn’t get out. Sonoma County sheriff’s officials said seven people had died in that county. Two people died in a blaze in Napa, state fire officials said. At least one person was killed in Mendocino County. In addition, Sonoma County officials received more than 100 reports of missing people as of Monday evening, said Scott Alonso, a county spokesman.

“Facing one of the most damaging series of blazes in modern California history — fires that left thousands of evacuees in scores of emergency shelters and parts of the wine industry potentially crippled — Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Napa and Sonoma counties as well as fire-struck Yuba County. The move will make it easier for local and state officials to secure government aid.

“The blazes blackened 103,000 acres and blanketed much of the Bay Area in cough-inducing smoke. And it wasn’t just the North Bay that was hit hard.

“In Napa and Sonoma counties, more than 100 people were treated at hospitals for injuries that included burns and smoke inhalation. Two patients with severe burns were in critical condition at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, officials said.

“Hundreds of firefighters streamed into the region. The California Highway Patrol said it had used helicopters to rescue 42 people, some of them vineyard workers. Those saved from the flames range in age from 5 to 91.

“But Chief Ken Pimlott of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said crews had “limited or no containment” on the fires — and the situation had not improved by Monday night. Many communities, Pimlott said, “were just overrun.”

“Officials were looking into the cause of the fires, which were also burning thousands of acres in Lake, Butte and Yuba counties. In Southern California, meanwhile, residents in and around Anaheim in Orange County were under evacuation orders as a fire raged uncontrolled, destroying at least 24 structures.

“The fires occurred in a year of record-setting heat and persistent drought. They followed extreme weather events elsewhere in the U.S., including the hurricanes that ravaged Houston, Puerto Rico and parts of Florida.”

The rest of the article is here.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for years, was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News, and was Editor of The Union, a 145-year-old newspaper in Grass Valley. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing and trout fishing.

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