Massive fires in California destroy hundreds of homes, force mass evacuations

napa-sonoma-wildfires-california

Massive wildfires burning out of control in California since Sunday, October 8, 2017, have destroyed hundreds of homes, caused widespread power outages, forced mass evacuations and shut down major roadways overnight. 

The series of fires began to ignite Sunday and multiplied as the night went on, hitting Napa and Sonoma the hardest but affecting at least 3 other counties, including Lake and Mendocino. 

One blaze in and around northern Santa Rosa called the Tubbs Fire had burned at least 8 093 ha (20 000 acres) by 07:00 PDT Monday, October 9. Scores of homes were lost in the Journey’s End Mobile Home Park on Mendocino Avenue, and the nearby Fountaingrove Inn burned, as did the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country and a Kmart store. And that was just the beginning, SFGate reports.

Residents in the area described fleeing for their lives in the middle of the night from the fire, in cars or on foot. "Hundreds of firefighters were on scene. It’s all hands on deck," said Battalion Chief Jonathan Cox of Cal Fire.

Cox said the Santa Rosa fire had started Sunday in Calistoga and burned west through canyons and over hills. Two hospitals in Santa Rosa were evacuated.

"People are running red lights, there is chaos ensuing," one Santa Rosa resident told KTVU. "It's a scary time. It looks like Armageddon."

"It was an inferno like you’ve never seen before," another eyewitness said. "Trees were on fire like torches."

People flocked to gas stations in cities that were safe from the conflagrations, to fuel up and buy water and other supplies. Evacuation centers were set up, then quickly filled, forcing more to open, SFGate said.

In several cities, including Napa, Santa Rosa, Calistoga and Petaluma, all public schools are closed today.

Communities near Redwood Valley and Willits in Mendocino County were evacuated, their report said. In Marin County, officials said at 03:00 PDT that a grass fire had closed part of Highway 37. In Alameda County, fire crews from multiple jurisdictions were battling a blaze in the North Berkeley hills at 03:45. They later declared it under control, and no homes were damaged.

In Napa County, the Atlas Fire broke out near Atlas Peak Road and blackened hundreds of acres in a famed wine-growing area northeast of the city of Napa and the Silverado Trail. The second Napa County blaze, to the northwest near Calistoga, forced residents to flee their homes as well, even as it raced toward Santa Rosa.

According to NWS, the blazes, which caused power outages and blanketed much of the Bay Area in smoke, were fanned by dry northeast winds that gusted up to 80 km/h (50 mph) in the valleys and 112 km/h (70 mph) on mountaintops. Those winds were expected to ease later in the day.

No deaths have been reported yet, though people are being treated at local hospitals for injuries. At this time, there are no estimates of how many are injured.

Featured image: Santa Rosa fire, California – October 8/9, 2017. Credit: Tyler Clarke

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