Location:Home > NEWS > 'It'll Go Up Like a Candle’: High Winds Expected to Fan Wildfires in Wine Country Where 'Devastatio

'It'll Go Up Like a Candle’: High Winds Expected to Fan Wildfires in Wine Country Where 'Devastatio

Time:2017-10-13 14:59wine - Red wine life health Click:

local news Breaking News San Francisco o bay area

At least 31 people killed by fires burning across Northern California

More than 191,000 acres scorched by growing wildfires

3,500 homes and businesses gutted

Wine country wildfires already well on their way to becoming the deadliest and most destructive in California history could gain momentum Thursday and erase even the modest gains firefighters have made.

Steady winds with gusts up to 45 mph with nearly non-existent humidity are expected to descend on the areas north of San Francisco where at least 31 people have died and at least 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed. A total of 191,437 acres — or nearly 300 square miles — have burned since the fires ignited late Sunday.

Of the more than two dozen people who perished in the calamitous fires, 17 lived in Sonoma County, eight in Mendocino County, two in Napa County and four in Yuba County.

"We are a long way from being done with this catastrophe," Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott said Thursday. Pimlott said the blazes are expected to spread as firefighters — some of whom have lost their own homes — brace for additional days of bone-dry humidity and gusty winds through the weekend.

"What this means is our fires are going to continue to burn erratically," Pimlott said. "They have the potential to shift in any direction at any time."

'It'll Go Up Like a Candle’: High Winds Could Fan Wildfires

The fires have killed 23, destroyed more than 3,500 homes and businesses, scorched roughly 265 square miles and forced at least 20,000 people to evacuate since Sunday.

(Published Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017)

The coroner has identified 15 of the 17 people who died in Sonoma County. Ten of those names were released Thursday: Carol Collins-Swasey, 76, of Santa Rosa; Lynne Anderson Powell, 72, of Santa Rosa; Arthur Tasman Grant, 95, of Santa Rosa; Suiko Grant, 75, of Santa Rosa; Donna Mae Halbur, 80, of Larkfield (Santa Rosa); Leroy Peter Halbur, 80, of Larkfield; Valerie Lynn Evans, 75, of Santa Rosa; Carmen Caldentey Berriz, 75, of Apple Valley; Michael John Dornbach, 57, of Calistoga; and Veronica Elizabeth McCombs, 67, of Santa Rosa.

Fires within the city limits of Santa Rosa alone have gutted 2,834 homes, according to the Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey. Roughly 400,000 square feet of commercial space has also been destroyed.

"The city of Santa Rosa has suffered a serious blow in these fires," Coursey said, admitting that the destruction numbers could rise.

Flames across wine country have driven tens of thousands of residents from their homes. Some people who took shelter at Napa Valley College expressed frustration because they not only are in the dark about the condition of their homes but also have no idea when they can return or what fire behavior to expect.

On Thursday, Napa Sheriff John Robertson said that deputies will begin escorting people with "critical needs" into certain parts of the city. Exigent conditions include checking on pets, retrieving medication, business needs and checking on people who stayed behind, he said. 

Entire cities have evacuated in anticipation of the next wave of fires, their streets empty, the only motion coming from ashes falling like snowflakes.

A mandatory evacuation order is in effect in Calistoga, forcing all 5,300 residents to get to safety. Early Thursday, flames shot into the air just miles away from downtown Calistoga, sending a haze of smoke into the normally bustling town, known for wine tastings and hot springs.

Someone left behind a note and some protein bars in the ghost town, asking firefighters to save a family's home. Derek Bohan, who was born and raised in Calistoga, said the experience has been "definitely scary."

Calistoga Mayor Chris Canning had strong words for people who were ignoring the mandatory evacuation order.

"Your presence in Calistoga is not welcome if you’re not a first responder," he said. "Your choice to say – and there have been very few of them – is a distraction to our first responders. You will not be given life safety support at this point. You are on your own.

"If you’re trying to visit Calistoga, you are not welcome. That is very hard for us to say because we’ve been known since the 1800s as a very hospitable community. That’s not helpful at this point."

In addition to Calistoga, firefighters are paying close attention to Sonoma, Middletown and Geyserville due to the increased threat of fire danger. 

"The situation is very dynamic and oftentimes can change by the minute or by the hour," Pimlott said.

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