Multiple fires rip through California wine country

Update 4:50 p.m.

The number of fire-related fatalities has grown to 10, officials say.

As communities are destroyed by fire aggravated by strong winds and pervasive drought, fire departments have shifted from fighting fires, to saving lives, according to Ken Pimlott, the director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

“I grew up in this area…it’s devastating,” said Kelly Nelson, who grew up in Santa Rosa. “It’s crazy to see the area that you grew up in look like a war zone.”

The United States National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning, denoting ideal wildland fire conditions that will continue until at least Tuesday.

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At least one person has died in the 14 wildfires that have torn through California’s wine country, destroying over 1,500 structures and forcing thousands to evacuate the as of yet uncontrolled blaze, authorities said.

According to a family friend of SF State student Niko Baila “it’s raining ash, the windows and doors can’t be opened because the air is so bad and the sun is glowing a weird amber color from all the smoke.”

Baila’s parents, who live close to Yountville, were evacuated from their home.

According to Baila, cellphone towers near Yountville have been damaged, preventing locals from receiving cell service in Napa’s outer region, but communication is still possible in central Napa.

California Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for Sonoma, Napa and Yuba Counties, but the fire continues to rip through five others.

The fires have decimated 57,000 acres of land and forced 20,000 residents to evacuate.

The fires, although raging several counties away, have still impacted San Francisco. One SF State student, who lives in Marin County, woke up at 2 a.m. thinking there was a fire.

“It’s difficult to describe, but I looked out at night and I couldn’t see the surrounding hills, I just saw a gray black fog…I couldn’t even see the moon,” communications graduate student Victor Coronado said. “As I was on Highway 101 this morning it got better going south, but looking into San Francisco it was coated, almost like the Golden Gate Bridge had fog over it, only it was smoke.”

SF State Student Liz Borders’ family in Rohnert Park is taking in family and friends who have been forced to evacuate from Santa Rosa.

Residents of Petaluma are opening up their homes to people and animals, including the Petaluma Church of Christ, Petaluma Community Center and the Santa Rosa Veteran’s Memorial building. Large animals can be taken to the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds.

Additional reporting by Garrett Bergthold, Brian Neumann, Christopher Norman, Mitchell Mylius, Cesar Lopez, Steven Luke and Carlee Carter

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