10 dead, 1,500 structures lost in California firestorm, among worst in state’s history

 In U.S.
At least 10 people have died and at least 1,500 homes, businesses and other structures have been destroyed as more than 14 fires ravaged eight counties throughout Northern California on Monday, authorities said.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office reported seven fire-related deaths late Monday. In addition, two died because of the Atlas fire in Napa County, said a CalFire spokesperson. One person died as result of the Redwood Valley fire in Mendocino County.

In Sonoma County, the dead were found “in the hot spots” of the fire, an official said.

“We are a resilient county; we will come back from this,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane. “But right now we need to grieve.”

The vast devastation over just a few hours made this firestorm one of the worst in California history, with Gov. Jerry Brown declaring a state of emergency. Officials said the fires in Northern California have scorched 73,000 acres.

Local hospitals were treating those injured while others are unaccounted for, officials said. Additional fatalities were possible as search efforts continued.

One of the raging fires had Santa Rosa under siege Monday morning, with a large swath of the city north of downtown under an evacuation order.

The area of Fountaingrove appeared to be particularly hard hit, with photos showing numerous homes on fire. The Fountaingrove Inn, a Hilton hotel and a high school also burned. Officials said homes were also lost in the community of Kenwood and at a mobile home park off the 101 Freeway.

Coffey Park, a large Santa Rosa subdivision of dozens of homes, was burned to the ground.

“It’s fair to say it’s been destroyed,” Cal Fire director Ken Pimlott said of Santa Rosa’s Fountaingrove neighborhood.

“Late last night starting around 10 o’clock you had 50 to 60 mph winds that surfaced — really across the whole northern half of the state,” he said. “Every spark is going to ignite.”

Northern California has seen its share of horrific wildfires — the state’s second-deadliest is the October 1991 Tunnel fire in the Oakland Hills, in which 25 people died. The Tunnel also ranks as the most destructive, charring 2,900 buildings.

But the combination of high winds, dried-up vegetation and low humidity driving flames into neighborhoods is more typical of Southern California.

“This is exactly what you would expect in the Southern California fall fire season,” Pimlott said.

Despite a wet winter, he said vegetation still hasn’t recovered from California’s punishing drought, and at the end of the summer dry season, was ready to burn.

Firefighters are hopeful the winds will calm Monday afternoon. But red flag weather conditions will persist into Tuesday.

The city of Santa Rosa imposed a curfew starting at 6:45 p.m. Monday until sunrise Tuesday to prevent looting of empty homes in the evacuation zone, said acting Santa Rosa police chief Craig Schwartz.

“We have had a number of reports in the evacuation zone and the fire zone of people driving around and suspicious behavior,” Schwartz said.

Recent Posts
Get Breaking News Delivered to Your Inbox
Join over 2.3 million subscribers. Get daily breaking news directly to your inbox as they happen.
Your Information will never be shared with any third party.
Get Latest News in Facebook
Never miss another breaking news. Click on the "LIKE" button below now!