Raging Napa Wildfires Kill One Resident, Burn Hundreds of Homes and Businesses, Force Evacuations, Close Hospitals
October 9, 2017
A swarm of wildfires ripped through Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties Monday, killing one resident, destroying hundreds of homes and businesses, and forcing tens of thousands to flee.
The blazes turned wide swaths of the Wine Country into wastelands of twisted metal and ash as firefighters sought to contain flames super-charged by powerful winds.
California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Napa and Sonoma counties, seeking to streamline aid for firefighting and recovery. He said the fires, which blanketed much of the Bay Area in smoke, were “really serious,” but added, “We are on it.”
Chief Ken Pimlott of Cal Fire said at least 1,500 homes and commercial facilities had been destroyed in 14 fires now burning in eight counties in Northern California, including Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Yuba. He said firefighters had “limited or no containment” on the fires, and that many communities “were just overrun.”
More than 100 people were treated for injuries, including burns and smoke inhalation, at hospitals in Napa and Sonoma counties. Two patients with severe burns were in critical condition at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, officials said.
Hundreds of firefighters streamed into the region. The California Highway Patrol said it had used helicopters to rescue 42 people, who included vineyard workers and ranged in age from 5 to 91, as well as five dogs and a cat.
One of the most aggressive fires roared in the Atlas Peak area of Napa County, a famed winemaking spot northeast of the city of Napa and the Silverado Trail where at least 50 structures were leveled. Another fire burned north of Carneros, and still another near Kenwood, east of Santa Rosa in Sonoma County.
In Mendocino County, the Sheriff’s Office reported a fire-related death. Capt. Gregory Van Patten said flames surged early Monday from Potter Valley west toward Redwood Valley as wind gusts downed trees and power lines. Evacuations were ordered, but the fire burned structures, killed one person and caused numerous injuries, he said.
Perhaps the worst damage came in the jagged path of an out-of-control blaze in and around northern Santa Rosa called the Tubbs Fire, which had burned at least 35,000 acres by Monday morning, according to officials. The fire had started Sunday in Calistoga and burned west through canyons and over hills.
Scores of homes were lost in the Fountaingrove area east of Highway 101 and in other neighborhoods including the Journey’s End Mobile Home Park for seniors. The Fountaingrove Inn burned, as did the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country, a Kmart, a McDonald’s, an Arby’s and an Applebee’s. The Luther Burbank Center for the Arts was damaged.
Residents in the hardest-hit areas described fleeing for their lives in the middle of the night from the fire, in cars or on foot, amid a disaster that stood as another stark reminder of the intense peril of wildfires in dry California.
“It’s not uncommon to have multiple fires burning,” Pimlott said, “but I can certainly tell you its becoming more of the norm now to have multiple large, damaging fires now like we’re seeing today. These are the conditions we continue to talk about that California is experiencing.”
Two hospitals in Santa Rosa, those run by Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health, were evacuated. Some of those transferred from Sutter were pregnant women in active labor.
Power outages were widespread. 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.
Updated #GOES16 satellite imagery around 12:45 AM Monday shows wildfires continue to spread in N Bay, including #AtlasPeak Fire in Napa Co. Fires being fanned by strong/dry northeast winds. Colors in image represent heat with oranges/reds signifying hottest parts of fires. #cawx pic.twitter.com/E2GufGQdst— NWS Bay Area (@NWSBayArea) October 9, 2017
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