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Deadly California fires explode again

  • A Cal Fire official looks out at the remains of the Journey's End mobile home park Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, in Santa Rosa, Calif. Blazes burning in Northern California have become some of the deadliest in state history. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg) Eric Risberg

  • Phil Rush walks through the burnt remains at the site of his home destroyed by fires in Santa Rosa, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. Wildfires tearing through California’s wine country continued to expand Wednesday, destroying hundreds more homes and structures and prompting new evacuation orders. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu) Jeff Chiu

  • Lynn Bennett rounds up her Arabian horses to be evacuated on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017 in Calistoga, Calif. The wildfires tearing through California wine country flared anew Wednesday, growing in size and number as authorities issued new evacuation orders and announced that hundreds more homes and businesses had been lost. The death toll climbed to 21 and was expected to rise higher still. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) Ben Margot

  • A flag is draped on the back of a truck destroyed by fires in Santa Rosa, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. Wildfires tearing through California’s wine country continued to expand Wednesday, destroying hundreds more homes and structures and prompting new evacuation orders. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu) Jeff Chiu

  • Shown are the remains of where Linda Tunis lived at the Journey's End mobile home park Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, in Santa Rosa, Calif. Jessica Tunis is searching for her missing mother, Linda Tunis, who was living at the mobile home park when the wildfires struck. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg) Eric Risberg

  • A clay sculpture is seen on a destroyed home in Santa Rosa, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. Officials say they have thousands of firefighters battling 22 blazes burning in Northern California and that more are coming from nearby states. The blazes have also left at least 180 people injured and have destroyed more than 3,500 homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Jonathan Copper) Jonathan Copper

  • Phil Rush walks over the garage door at the site of his home destroyed by fires in Santa Rosa, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. Wildfires tearing through California’s wine country continued to expand Wednesday, destroying hundreds more homes and structures and prompting new evacuation orders. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu) Jeff Chiu

  • A car lies upside down at the site of a home destroyed by fires in Santa Rosa, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. Wildfires tearing through California’s wine country continued to expand Wednesday, destroying hundreds more homes and structures and prompting new evacuation orders. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu) Jeff Chiu

  • A row of chimneys stand in a wildfire-damaged neighborhood along Mark West Springs Road, Wednesday, in Santa Rosa, Calif. ap photo

  • A wildfire from a distant mountain burns over a vineyard in Kenwood, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. Some of the largest blazes in Northern California were in Napa and Sonoma counties, home to dozens of wineries that attract tourists from around the world. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu) Jeff Chiu



Associated Press
Wednesday, October 11, 2017

SANTA ROSA, Calif. — The wildfires tearing through California wine country flared anew Wednesday, growing in size and number as authorities issued new evacuation orders and announced that hundreds more homes and businesses had been lost. The death toll climbed to 21 and was expected to rise higher still.

At least 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed since the fires started Sunday, making them the third deadliest and most destructive blazes in state history.

“We have had big fires in the past. This is one of the biggest, most serious, and it’s not over,” Gov. Jerry Brown said at a news conference, alongside the state’s top emergency officials, who said that 8,000 firefighters and other personnel were battling the blazes and more resources were pouring in from Oregon, Nevada, Washington and Arizona.

Nearly three days after the flames ignited, firefighters were still unable to gain control of the blazes. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant said 22 wildfires were burning, up from 17 on Tuesday.

“Make no mistake, this is a serious, critical, catastrophic event,” said Ken Pimlott, chief of the department. He said the fires have burned through a staggering 265 square miles of urban and rural areas. The return of high winds and low humidity ignited ground that was parched from years of drought.

“We are literally looking at explosive vegetation,” he said. “It is very dynamic. These fires are changing by the minute in many areas.”

As the fires grow, officials voiced concern that separate fires would merge into even larger infernos.

“These fires are literally just burning faster than firefighters can run in some situations,” Emergency Operations Director Mark Ghilarducci said.

Flames have raced across the wine-growing region and the scenic coastal area of Mendocino farther north, leaving little more than smoldering ashes and eye-stinging smoke in their wake. Whole neighborhoods are gone, with only brick chimneys and charred appliances to mark sites that were once family homes.

Authorities ordered more evacuations for parts of Sonoma Valley after a blaze grew to 44 square miles.

Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano said hundreds of people were still reported missing. But officials believe many of those people will be found because chaotic evacuations and poor communications over the past few days have made locating friends and family difficult.

The sheriff also expects the death toll to climb.

“The devastation is enormous,” he said. “We can’t even get into most areas.”

Officials in Napa County say almost half the population of Calistoga was ordered to evacuate before sunrise. Officials went through the town of 5,000 people block by block, knocking on doors to warn people to leave, Napa County Supervisor Diane Dillon said.

New evacuation orders were also in place for Green Valley in Solano County.