Published: Thu, October 12, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Death Toll Climbs to 23 as Winds Fan California Wildfires

Death Toll Climbs to 23 as Winds Fan California Wildfires

Around 560 people have been reported missing, although the hope is that they are unable to get in touch since nearly all communication systems are down.

Entire towns in the state's wine-producing region have been abandoned.

"This has been one of the deadliest weeks for fires that we've experienced in recent time", said Daniel Berlant, assistant deputy director for Cal Fire.

"It's going to continue to get worse before it gets better", state fire Chief Ken Pimlott said on Wednesday. The toll of death and destruction is expected to rise. These fires were driven by the critically dry fuel bed.

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

But authorities point to a ideal storm of factors that have fanned the wildfires that began Sunday night, leaving at left 17 people dead, forcing 20,000 to evacuate and causing widespread devastation in Northern California.

The conditions are not expected to get better for firefighters as forecasters from the National Weather Service are predicting a spike in winds blowing from the northeast for the North Bay, though gusts won't be almost as strong as those that fanned several fast-moving and devastating fires Sunday night into Monday morning.

The fires have reduced entire neighbourhoods in the city of Santa Rosa, a city of 175,000 people, to ashes.

It started in Napa County near Calistoga, but is the fire that is responsible for raving the city of Santa Rosa, the county seat of Sonoma County.

Pitre said his law firm has already been contacted by Sonoma County residents who said transformers exploded and wires sparked unrelated to wildfire. Some 25,000 people across the county have been evacuated and 40,000 homes are without power.

BP was unable to reach Community Baptist before its publication deadline to confirm details of the ministry.

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. Among the dead in Napa were a couple aged 99 and 100 years old who had been married for 75 years, KTVU-TV said. "We hope the public will help us out - if they see smoke, call 911, and check their vehicles to make sure they are in good working order".

Evacuations in the Montebello Road area on the south side of Shiloh Ranch Regional Park north of Santa Rosa and south of Windsor were begun after a fire broke out in the 5500 block of Faught Road around 4:08 p.m.

An aerial view of homes that were destroyed by wildfire in Santa Rosa, Calif.

. Several wineries were either damaged or destroyed. Seven deaths were reported in Sonoma County, three in Mendocino County, two in Napa County and one in Yuba County and the governor said "emergency responders anticipate the number of fatalities could grow".

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