Wednesday 25 April 2018

One killed, two seriously injured as 20,000 flee wildfires in California wine country

Firefighters assess the scene as a house burns in the Napa wine region of California on October 9, 2017. Multiple wind-driven fires continue to ravage the area burning structures and causing widespread evacuations. / AFP PHOTO / JOSH EDELSONJOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images
Firefighters assess the scene as a house burns in the Napa wine region of California on October 9, 2017. Multiple wind-driven fires continue to ravage the area burning structures and causing widespread evacuations. / AFP PHOTO / JOSH EDELSONJOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images
A tent structure built for the 2017 Safeway Open burns on a golf course at the Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa, California on October 9, 2017, as multiple wind-driven fires continue to whip through the region. / AFP PHOTO / JOSH EDELSONJOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images
The remains of fire damaged homes after an out of control wildfire moved through the area on October 9, 2017 in Glen Ellen, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Fire consumes a barn as an out of control wildfire moves through the area on October 9, 2017 in Glen Ellen, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Fire consumes a home as an out of control wildfire moves through the area on October 9, 2017 in Glen Ellen, California.(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Fire consumes a barn as an out of control wildfire moves through the area on October 9, 2017 in Glen Ellen, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
The remains of fire damaged homes after an out of control wildfire moved through the area on October 9, 2017 in Glen Ellen, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Fire consumes a home as out of control wildfires move through the area on October 9, 2017 in Glen Ellen, California (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Fire consumes a home as out of control wildfires move through the area on October 9, 2017 in Glen Ellen, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Resident Louis Reavis views his burned classic Corvette at his home in Napa, California on October 9, 2017, as multiple wind-driven fires continue to whip through the region. / AFP PHOTO / JOSH EDELSONJOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images
A firefighter pulls a hose in front of a burning house in the Napa wine region of California on October 9, 2017, as multiple wind-driven fires continue to whip through the region. / AFP PHOTO / JOSH EDELSONJOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images
A firefighters douses flames as a home burns in the Napa wine region of California on October 9, 2017, as multiple wind-driven fires continue to whip through the region. / AFP PHOTO / JOSH EDELSONJOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images

Ellen Knickmeyer

At least one person has been killed and two seriously injured in fast-spreading wildfires in northern California wine country, officials say.

CalFire said the death and injuries occurred in Mendocino County, one of several counties struggling to contain 14 major fires burning out of control.

The fires, whipped by powerful winds, have destroyed at least 1,500 homes and businesses and sent about 20,000 people fleeing to safety.

The state's fire chief called the damage estimates for the fires conservative and said they were burning throughout an eight-county stretch of northern California, including Napa, Sonoma and Yuba.

Fire consumes a barn as an out of control wildfire moves through the area on October 9, 2017 in Glen Ellen, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Fire consumes a barn as an out of control wildfire moves through the area on October 9, 2017 in Glen Ellen, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Numerous people have been hurt and some are missing, although no estimates were immediately available, said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection director Ken Pimlott.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered after the blazes broke out late on Sunday. Long queues formed at filling stations when families heeded a middle-of-the-night call to get out.

A spokesman for Pacific Gas & Electric said 114,000 customers were without power.

Fires also burned just to the east in Napa County as well as in Yuba, Butte and Nevada counties - all north of the state capital. Many of the fires spread suddenly overnight, whipped by furious winds.

The remains of fire damaged homes after an out of control wildfire moved through the area on October 9, 2017 in Glen Ellen, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
The remains of fire damaged homes after an out of control wildfire moved through the area on October 9, 2017 in Glen Ellen, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Santa Rosa, the largest city in the fire area with a population of about 175,000, was hit hard. The city lost unknown numbers of businesses and homes as the blaze shut down schools and forced patients at two city hospitals to evacuate.

A Hilton Hotel was smouldering and in ruins.

A firefighter pulls a hose in front of a burning house in the Napa wine region of California on October 9, 2017, as multiple wind-driven fires continue to whip through the region. / AFP PHOTO / JOSH EDELSONJOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images
A firefighter pulls a hose in front of a burning house in the Napa wine region of California on October 9, 2017, as multiple wind-driven fires continue to whip through the region. / AFP PHOTO / JOSH EDELSONJOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images

More than 200 people were hurriedly evacuated from Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital and Santa Rosa Medical Centre, where the blaze could be seen raging nearby.

Napa County Fire Chief Barry Biermann said the fires had burned more than 68 square miles. Crews had not yet been able to contain a fire heading toward central Napa.

Resident Louis Reavis views his burned classic Corvette at his home in Napa, California on October 9, 2017, as multiple wind-driven fires continue to whip through the region. / AFP PHOTO / JOSH EDELSONJOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images
Resident Louis Reavis views his burned classic Corvette at his home in Napa, California on October 9, 2017, as multiple wind-driven fires continue to whip through the region. / AFP PHOTO / JOSH EDELSONJOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images

"Right now, with these conditions, we can't get ahead of this fire and do anything about the forward progress," Mr Biermann said.

Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties.

Smoke was thick in San Francisco, 60 miles south of the Sonoma County fire.

Emergency lines were inundated with callers reporting smoke, prompting officials to ask that the public "only use 911 if they see actual unattended flames, or are having another emergency".

The National Weather Service said widespread wind gusts between 35mph and 50mph were observed in the north San Francisco Bay region and isolated spots hit 70mph. The winds were expected to subside later.

Press Association

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