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'Catastrophic Event': Death Toll Rises to 23 as Northern California Fires Spread

Time:2017-10-12 12:54wine - Red wine life health Click:

local news Breaking News San Francisco o bay area

At least 21 people killed by multiple fires

Estimated 170,000 acres charred across California

3,500 homes and businesses gutted in NorCal

UPDATE: As of 3 p.m. Wednesday, mandatory evacuations are in effect for the entire city of Calistoga. Officials said all residents should evacuate immediately.

City officials say residents can exit Calistoga via State Route Highway 29 south or via the Silverado Trail south to Zinfandel Lane, then west to SR 29 south.

Residents can shelter at American Canyon High School, 3000 Newell Drive.

Firefighters in Northern California are still struggling to contain more than a dozen fast-moving wildfires scorching the state's world-famous wine country as officials warn that strong winds could further threaten the fight against the blazes. 

Twenty-two blazes across California — primarily spread across eight counties in Northern California — have killed at least 23 people, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Director Ken Pimlott said. The death toll includes 13 in Sonoma County, two in Napa County, two in Yuba County and six in Mendocino County.

"Make no mistake, this is a serious, critical, catastrophic event," Pimlott said.

Fires across the state have destroyed more than 3,500 homes and businesses, scorched in excess of 170,000 acres — or roughly 265 square miles — and forced at least 20,000 people to evacuate since Sunday, officials said Wednesday. Apocalyptic Photos From California's Wine Country

The latest mandatory evacuation Wednesday afternoon included all of Calistoga, a city of about 5,300 in Napa County.

"This is just pure devastation, and it's going to take us a while to get out and comb through all of this," said Pimlott. He added that the state had "several days of fire weather conditions to come."

"We've had big fires in the past," Gov. Jerry Brown said. "This is one of the biggest, most serious, and it's not over."

The National Weather Service on Tuesday issued a Red Flag Warning — ideal conditions for fire ignition and spread — for the North Bay mountains and East Bay hills. The alert remains in effect through Thursday afternoon. 

Due to low humidity and strong winds, communities in Yuba, Sonoma, Napa, Lake, Humboldt, Mendocino, Butte, Nevada and Calaveras counties are experiencing "heavy fire activity," according to the California Office of Emergency Services.

The largest of the blazes burning over a 200-mile region hit Napa and Sonoma counties, both home to dozens of wineries that attract tourists from around the world. The Atlas Fire has burned over 42,000 acres in Napa and Solano counties and is 3 percent contained; the Tubbs Fire has scorched 28,000 acres in Napa County and is zero percent contained; the Nuns Fire has burned 7,626 acres in Sonoma County and is 2 percent contained; the Partrick-Carneros Fire has charred over 9,500 acres and is 2 percent contained, the Pocket Fire has burned 1,800 acres in Sonoma County, officials said.  360 Views of the Devastating Aftermath of the Paradise Ridge Winery

Deadly wildfires in Napa and Sonoma counties sent residents fleeing for their lives and reduced dozens of homes to smoldering ash. At least 1,500 structures have been torched, and fire officials say that estimate is conservative.

(Published 3 hours ago)

At least three other fires are also charring acreage in areas north of Sonoma and Napa counties. The Redwood/Potter Fire has charred 29,500 acres in Mendocino County and is 5 percent contained; the Sulphur Fire has spread to 2,500 acres in Lake County as is 40 percent contained; the Cascade Fire in Yuba county has grown to 12,349 acres and is 20 percent contained, according to Cal Fire.

Napa County Fire Chief Barry Biermann said Wednesday there has been "very aggressive" fire behavior with a "rapid spread." "We had a lot of winds that pushed the fire in a lot of directions," he said, posing significant challenges to first responders.

Unfortunately, Thursday promises to be more of the same due to the high fire risk. Biermann warned people that wine country will experience more "extreme fire behavior and growth" to the multiple blazes. Drone Footage Captures Santa Rosa Areas Leveled by Fire

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