Home > USA > 10 dead, more than 100 reported missing in wine country fires

10 dead, more than 100 reported missing in wine country fires

14 major wildfires burning across Northern California; Claudia Cowan reports from Sonoma County, California.

Source: AP

Authorities in Northern California late Monday said there were at least 10 dead and more than 100 reported missing in wildfires raging through much of the state’s wine country.

Scott Alonso, communications director for Sonoma County, said family members have been reporting those missing in calls to a hotline in the county. He said it is possible that many or most of the missing are safe but simply can’t be reached because of the widespread loss of cell service and other communications.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the fire has grown 2,000 acres since Monday afternoon and is now at 27,000 acres.  The 14 fires destroyed at least 1,500 homes.

Andy Luttringer, who lives in Santa Rose, looked at the damage to his home of nearly 20 years. He told the paper that he regretted not grabbing more of his wife’s artwork. His wife died of cancer a few years ago.

“I’m really mad at myself,” the 62-year-old retired cop told the paper. “I could have grabbed a couple of her pieces. The rest of the stuff I couldn’t care less about.”

At least 100 people have been injured in wildfires burning in Northern California.

St. Joseph Health said 100 patients have been treated, most for smoke inhalation, at two of its hospitals, Santa Rosa Memorial in Santa Rosa and Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa.

Those hospitals took on the majority of patients with other hospitals in the area evacuated because of the fires.

Two of the injured are critical. One has been transferred to a burn center with significant burns. Fifteen of the injuries are described as moderate and the rest are minor.

Chris Thomas, 42, from Kirkland, Wash.,was visiting Napa with his wife, Marissa, for a wine-tasting trip, told The Chronicle that he was awoken by a fire truck’s loudspeaker ordering them to leave.

“It was surreal,” Thomas said. “When I started loading stuff into the car, it was a hell-storm of smoke and ash. There were 30- to 40-mph winds. I couldn’t even breathe, so I ran back to the unit to get Marissa. It was so smoky I went to the wrong unit. When I found her I said, ‘Forget it, let’s just go.’ It went from being an annoying evacuation to something really scary.”

Former San Francisco Giants pitcher Noah Lowry and his family were among those who had to flee from the ferocious series of wildfires in Northern California.

Lowry said that he, his wife, his two daughters and his 2-week-old son had to leave their home in Santa Rosa in a matter of minutes as the flames approached. Lowry said he “can’t shake hearing people scream in terror as the flames barreled down on us.”

He said he ran into a closed U.S. 101 freeway because the flames had jumped it. But he and his family were able to get away in time and get to a friends’ house where they are staying.

Vice President Mike Pence said during a visit to California that the federal government stands ready to provide any and all assistance to the state. Pence said, “We are standing with you.”

Authorities have imposed a sunset-to-sunrise curfew in the city of Santa Rosa and say they are on the lookout for looters as firefighters battle the blazes. Acting police Chief Craig Schwartz said the curfew will be enforced in a mandatory evacuation zone, with violators possibly subject to arrest.

California Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency in Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties because of wildfires that the governor says are threatening thousands of homes.

Brown issued the declaration on Monday, as multiple fires forced people to evacuate their homes.

More than 200 people were hurriedly evacuated from two Santa Rosa hospitals threatened by wildfires that bloomed overnight.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Director Ken Pimlott say an estimated 20,000 people have been evacuated. He called the estimates of destroyed structures very conservative.

Pimlott said most of the fires started at about 10 p.m. Sunday and their causes are under investigation.

The Napa Valley Vintners association says most wineries were closed Monday because of power outages, evacuation orders and the inability of employees to get to work.

The trade association said Monday that it does not have verifiable information on winery buildings that burned down or the impact the fires would have on the 2017 harvest.

Workers had picked most grapes for the season before fires broke out.

The wind-driven wildfires came as Napa and Sonoma counties were finishing highly anticipated harvests of wine grapes. Workers on Monday should have been picking and processing the ripe grapes that would make chardonnay and other wines.

At least two wineries were destroyed and many others damaged.

More than 5,000 Southern California homes were evacuated Monday as fire crews struggled to battle a rapidly growing brush fire.

The blaze has scorched 6,000 acres and destroyed dozens of structures in Orange County.

Plumes of smoke were visible over Disneyland and officials issued air quality warnings for parts of Los Angeles County.

An Anaheim police spokesman says there is no containment so far.

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