Wildfires raging across Northern California have killed at least 17 people as hundreds of firefighters battle the flames and keep thousands of people away from the blaze’s path.
Most of the fires were ignited Sunday, driven by winds of more than 50 mph and dry conditions. With no rain in the forecast this week and a chance of gusts of 35 to 40 mph Wednesday, forecasters said the weather will create challenges for firefighters.
More than 20,000 people had been ordered to evacuate as of Tuesday night, and authorities were encouraging others to pack “ready-to-go bags” with documents and medicines in case they had to flee the fast-spreading flames on a moment’s notice.
“I think it would be one of the worst disasters in California history,” California Highway Patrol Capt. Mike Palaciosaid at a community meeting. “You gotta be patient. We are just trying to keep people alive.”
Wildfires have burned more than 122,000 acres in California. The largest fires were in Northern California’s Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties, filling the picturesque landscape of the state’s wine country with charred rubble and clouds of smoke.
Of the 17 people who’ve died since Sunday night, 11 were in Sonoma County, officials said.
Two of the deaths were in Napa County, county spokeswoman Kristi Jourdan said. Charles Rippey, 100, and his wife, Sara, 98, died when a fire engulfed their home near the Silverado Country Club north of Napa, Jourdan said.
More than 100 people were being treated at Napa- and Sonoma-area hospitals for fire-related injuries or health issues, including burns, smoke inhalation and shortness of breath.
President Donald Trump has signed a major disaster declaration and fire management assistance grants for the state, the White House said.
“The loss of homes and burning of precious land is heartbreaking, but the loss of life is truly devastating,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said Tuesday.