At least 15 dead, 100 injured as fires rage in California wine country – World
The ferocity of the flames forced authorities to focus primarily on getting people out safely, even if it meant abandoning structures to the fire.
Elsewhere in the state, a fire churning through canyons in hilly neighbourhoods of Orange County burned at least half a dozen homes and forced residents of about 1,000 homes to flee. Brown also declared a state of emergency for Orange County.
The inferno in Northern California blackened kilometres along Highway 12, one of the main gateways into wine country.
Wooden fence posts and guard rails burned fiercely. Thick smoke roiled from the JR Cohn winery.
‘We just had to run and run’
The fires also damaged the Silverado Resort in Napa and a Hilton hotel in Santa Rosa.
Kim Hoe, a 33-year-old tech worker from Penang, Malaysia, was staying at the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country, which was gutted by flames. He said the power went out around 1 a.m., and he and his colleagues started packing up when someone knocked on the door and told them to run.
“We just had to run and run. It was full of smoke. We could barely breathe,” Hoe said.
They returned in the morning to find the hotel had been destroyed along with most of their possessions. Hoe was relieved he had taken his passport and a few essential items.
Santa Rosa lost a Kmart, restaurants, businesses and homes.
Firefighters rush to save disabled people
Firefighters rushed to a state home for severely disabled people when flames reached one side of the centre’s sprawling campus in the historic Sonoma County town of Glen Ellen. Emergency workers leapt from their cars to aid the evacuation.
Crews got the more than 200 people from the threatened buildings, one firefighter said, as flames closed within a few metres.
Mike Turpen, 38, was at a bar in Glen Ellen early Monday when a stranger wearing a smoke mask ran in and yelled that there was a fire. Turpen raced home through flames in his Ford F-250.
“It was like Armageddon was on,” Turpen said. “Every branch of every tree was on fire.”
He stayed to try to defend his own rental home.
By late morning, Turpen, wearing shorts, a kerchief mask and goggles, was the last man standing for miles along one abandoned road. His yard and all those around him were burned, smoking and still flaming in a few spots. But his home was still standing.