Published: Thu, October 12, 2017
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Death toll rises in California wildfires

Death toll rises in California wildfires

According to state officials, nearly 8,000 firefighters are now involved in trying to contain the blazes.

"This is one of the biggest, most serious, and it's not over", Governor Jerry Brown said at a news conference, alongside the state's top emergency officials. By Tuesday, some 2,000 homes and other structures had been destroyed.

"We are literally looking at explosive vegetation", Mr Pimlott said.

PG&E has shut off gas service for roughly 40,000 customers in the Santa Rosa, Yountville, Napa and Kenwood areas as a safety precaution since fire can damage gas pipes and meters.

More than 200 fire engines and crews are being rushed to California from the rest of the U.S., officials said.

The equipment being used includes 550 fire trucks, 73 helicopters and over 30 planes.

They said 8,000 firefighters and other personnel were battling the blazes and more resources were pouring in from Arizona, Nevada, Washington and Oregon. Some 170,000 acres were burning.

"I spoke with Governor Brown last night to let him know that the federal government will stand with the people of California and we will be there for you in this time of awful tragedy and need".

He warned that the death toll could rise further. "The devastation is enormous", he said.

Gusts had died down earlier this week, but on Wednesday they blew between 20 and 40 miles per hour and conditions were still extremely dry, with low humidity and no rain.


Wesley Carr, 23, a resident of Sebastopol in Sonoma County, said smoke from the fires had enveloped the area.

NPR's Eric Westervelt, reporting from Calistoga, spoke with Colin Curtis, who has been eyeing with concern the rapidly moving fires. "All of these fires are under investigation and it's certainly very early in the process", he said.

More than 20,000 people were ordered to evacuate as of Tuesday night.

"The spread of the fire and predictions on the wind and seeing what we've seen had happen throughout our neighboring communities, obviously want to absolutely err on the side of caution here", he said.

Family members and friends of those missing have made appeals on social media to locate their loved ones while authorities have urged missing residents to mark themselves safe on a registry of missing people.

"It's insane how in just a few hours a place I've recognized all my life I can't recognize", he said at a roadside food stop in the town of Sonoma.

McCallister tells NPR's Morning Edition that she posted the images in part because it has been hard to find details about damage in specific neighborhoods. And I just want to pay my warmest respects. "Power lines are a common cause of fires during wind events". Especially in California, in our Mediterranean climate and also in the Rocky Mountains, there are more days where if you're going to have lightning ignition or somebody throwing out a cigarette butt, it's going to burn hotter, because it's warmer outside.

If the winds shifted suddenly, the fires could quickly turn, putting them on a collision course with the town of Sonoma, population 11,000.

Most of the major fires were at minimal containment of 3 percent or less, Pimlott said.

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