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This story originally appeared in the Press Democrat


The fires ravaging California’s wine country since Sunday night — part of an outbreak of blazes stretching almost the entire length of the state — continued to burn out of control Wednesday, as the toll rose to at least 21 people confirmed dead, hundreds hospitalized, and thousands of buildings destroyed or damaged. But state and local officials warned that with several hundred people still missing and unaccounted for, and some areas still out of reach of emergency crews, those figures are almost certain to rise.

The two biggest and most destructive fires had consumed more than 70,000 acres in Napa and Sonoma counties by Wednesday morning, up from 52,000 on Tuesday afternoon, according to Cal Fire, the state’s firefighting agency. In all, six fires had burned more than 91,000 acres in the two counties, and Cal Fire rated all but the smallest of them as 3 percent contained, or less.

The high winds that had propelled the blazes died down Tuesday, but conditions were expected to get worse Wednesday and Thursday.

“The wind’s going to pick up this afternoon, and there’s a lot of concerns about where the fires will go,” Robert Giordano, the Sonoma County sheriff, said Wednesday. “If you have a place to go, go. The less people we have here and the less area we have to evacuate, the better.”

More than 20,000 people have heeded evacuation warnings, fleeing on foot and by car as the fires overtook their towns — local governments issued new evacuation orders early Wednesday — and many of them have spent nights in dozens of evacuation centers set up around the region.

Here is the latest news on the fires:

4:50 p.m.

Three more deaths have been confirmed from the Redwood Valley fire in Mendocino County, raises the death toll from the North Bay blazes to 24, 11 of those from Sonoma County.

Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman had indicated the number was expected to rise.

The Redwood Valley fire stretches into Potter Valley and by late afternoon there were mandatory evacuations in Potter Valley, said sheriff’s Capt. Greg Van Patten.

4:35 p.m.

The 11 North Coast fires burning across five separate counties

3:55 p.m.

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office has issued an ADVISORY EVACUATION notice for the Lake Pillsbury Basin area because of the Redwood/Potter fires in Mendocino County.

Residents should only use Elk Mountain Road while leaving the area.

An advisory evacuation is not mandated, but strongly recommended.

3:14 p.m.

The Napa County Sheriff’s Department has ordered the mandatory evacuation of the Napa Valley community of Calistoga. Some parts of the community were evacuated early Wednesday morning. The full community evacuation needed to be completed by 5 p.m. The department advised that residents could take shelter at American Canyon High School, 3000 Newell Drive in American Canyon.

3:04 p.m.

The Sonoma County Sheriff has issued an ADVISORY EVACUATION for most of Boyes Hot Springs and the north side of Sonoma.

This area includes Arnold Drive from Madrone Road, south to Petaluma Avenue and east to East Napa Street and Lovall Valley Road.

Residents are advised to pack necessary belongings, medications, pets, personal items, cellphones, chargers, important papers and anything else deemed necessary. The best route out of town is south towards Petaluma.

This story originally appeared in the Press Democrat

Although not an official evacuation shelter, the Sonoma Raceway is offering space to meet temporary immediate needs of evacuees.

2:22 p.m.

At least five people in Sonoma County have been arrested for suspected looting since fires began Sunday night, Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano said.

Two arrests were made by Santa Rosa police, according to a spokeswoman. There have been 67 calls reporting looting since the fires began early Monday morning, said spokeswoman Adriane Mertens.

The three arrests by sheriff’s deputies Monday and Tuesday were for outstanding warrants and other violations. Giordano said the arrests were not for looting, but investigations connected the suspects, who were arrested on outstanding warrants and violations.

2 p.m.

A large area of Agua Caliente now is included in VOLUNTARY EVACUATION orders due to encroaching fire.

Officials want residents to be able to leave now or be ready to leave in case evacuation becomes mandatory.

The area where residents are being told they could evacuate includes Agua Caliente particularly Park Avenue and Cavedale, Moon Mountain, Kearner, La Placita, Richards, Theordore, Hooker, Oak Tree, London and East Agua Caliente Roads.

1:56 p.m.

ADVISORY EVACUATION notices have been issued for specific areas of Healdsburg and Windsor Wednesday as officials want residents to prepare to evacuate as winds increase and the threat of a nearby fire remains.

A MANDATORY EVACUATION includes Chalk Hill Road between Santa Rosa and Windsor.

Officials are concerned about shifts and gusts, mainly from a finger of the Tubbs fire currently burning in the hills of northern Santa Rosa.

For Healdsburg, the advisory was issued for Fitch Mountain east of the golf course and Revel Road, Rivers Bend, Bailache Avenue from Rio Lindo to Healdsburg Avenue and all spur roads.

In Windsor the advisory order covered a large, not heavily populated area near Foothill Regional Park, and including Arata Lane, to Highway 101 north to the Russian River, then following the east side of the river up to Bailache Avenue, toward Fitch Mountain.

The strategy for evacuating Chalk Hill is officials don’t want cars trying to leave — if necessary — while fire engines are heading in.

Further details for the advisory evacuation perimeters are available on the town of Windsor online home page here.

Windsor has activated its emergency operations center due to a red flag warning in the area. EOC spokesman and former fire chief Ron Collier said it’s a precautionary move.

1:15 p.m.

There are 380 reports of missing people in Sonoma County. The number, lower than the more than 500 previously reported by officials, reflects duplicate accounts of missing people, Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano said at a 1 p.m. press conference.

He said 530 people had been unaccounted for but 150 people had been located by sheriff’s deputies since Sunday night.

12:33 p.m.

The teens at the Sonoma County juvenile detention center were evacuated Monday to Solano County due to an encroaching fire, according to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office Wednesday.

Forty teens and nine employees were moved Monday at 5:30 a.m.

Teens arrested subsequently are being taken to Marin County’s juvenile incarceration facility.

The Sonoma County center is near Oakmont, off Highway 12.

12:30 p.m.

Sonoma State University has canceled all classes and university business until Monday, Oct. 16.

12:10 p.m.

The number deaths caused by fires burning in Northern California since Sunday has increased to 21, said Cal Fire spokesman Jonathan Cox.

11:55 a.m.

While the Fountaingrove fire did not consume and destroy Santa Rosa Community Health’s Vista Family Health Center on Round Barn Circle, it did force its closure from smoke and water damage.

Naomi Fuchs, SRHC’s CEO, said all Vista staff were transferred to the health center’s other clinic sites which are open to anyone in the local community for nonemergency care.

These sites include the Lombardi Campus, 751 Lombardi Court; Brookwood Health Center, 983 N. Dutton Ave.; and the Pediatric Campus, 711 Stony Point Road. More information about facilities is available at srhealth.org.

Fuchs said those seeking medical care should call 707 303-3600 first, as many issues can be dealt with over the phone.

Help is available for those who are having breathing problems or need attention for chronic illnesses such as diabetes or hypertension. Help with medications is available at SRCH’s Lombardi pharmacy.

Obstetrics care is also available at all sites, she said, and the dental clinic on 1110 N. Duton Ave. is open.

SRCH serves some 50,000 residents in the Santa Rosa area. At least 20 SRCH staff lost homes, she said.

11:50 a.m.

Wind remains the main concern, as already taxed firefighters enter a third day without containment on multiple fires threatening communities throughout Sonoma and Napa counties.

Santa Rosa Battalion Chief Mark Basque said they’re trying to get crews working without rest since Sunday time to shower and sleep.

Wednesday, areas of significant concern included the northwest section of the Fire, from Shiloh ridge to Chalk Hill Road and Knights Valley.

“There are a ton of houses out there,” Basque said.

Several firefighters had lost homes and Basque said the Pocket fire was threatening his home outside Healdsburg.

“This is an unprecedented event,” Basque said.

11:32 a.m.

Law enforcement has closed Highway 12 to traffic from Melita Road all the way to Agua Caliente Road near Sonoma.

11:30 a.m.

Fire officials Wednesday were monitoring a flaming finger of the Tubbs fire burning in the hills north of Santa Rosa, watching for signs that winds later could push flames toward sections of northeast Windsor and southern Healdsburg.

Advisory evacuations are possible for specific areas of the towns, but only if the winds pose a risk, said Windsor Fire Chief Jack Piccinini.

Specifically, officials are watching fire burning above the Mark West Lodge and wind shifts.

“The fear is that if that little finger does catch the wind and does kind of start to burn in a northeasterly direction or easterly direction” it could pose a threat, he said. “We want people to be ready to go.”

The advisory would be for residents near Foothills Regional Park, including Arata Lane, and east of Healdsburg in the area of Bailache Avenue and Fitch Mountain, northeast Windsor.

Piccinini was concerned that evacuation notices be specific, and asked residents to check official notices about the streets listed — if and when a warning is issued.

Late Tuesday afternoon the Sheriff’s Office issued several evacuation notices for numerous areas including near the Bennett Valley Golf Course. The Bennett Valley evacuation notice was for areas east of Summerfield Road and south of Parktrail Drive, said Paul Lowenthal, spokesman for the Santa Rosa-area fire, who was in the area helping make the decision.

“We were evaluating the fire. Based on the conditions and the concerns we decided to evacuate from Parktrail all the way to the end of Summerfield to the golf course and east of Summerfield,” Lowenthal said.

Lowenthal drove subdivisions along Yulupa Avenue and saw hundreds of people packing up and leaving.

Information briefly posted on The Press Democrat included stated an area of Montgomery Village was included in the evacuation but that was removed after it was determined people east of the shopping area were leaving voluntarily.

11:20 a.m.

An emergency shelter will remain open at Analy High School, Sebastopol officials said.

Police Chief Jeff Weaver initially told evacuees Tuesday the community-run shelter would shut down by lunchtime today, and people would be transferred to the Red Cross shelter at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building.

But because of increased winds expected tonight, officials decided this morning to keep the shelter at 6950 Analy Ave. open.

11:15 a.m.

The Santa Rosa VA Clinic will be closed through Friday, Oct. 13.

No VA shuttles will run between the San Francisco VA Medical Center and VA clinics north of the Golden Gate Bridge on Wednesday or Thursday.

11:11 a.m.

The Air National Guard will be using a drone Wednesday over the northern area of Santa Rosa to help map fire damage, the City of Santa Rosa reported.

10:55 a.m.

MANDATORY EVACUATIONS have been issued for all of Glen Ellen in response to the 70,00-acre Southern LNU Complex fire, which includes six separate fires burning in Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties.

Nearly 180 structures have been destroyed and another 5,000 are threatened.

Other MANDATORY EVACUATIONS have been listed for roads branching off Highway 12 approaching the Springs area and Sonoma, including Enterprise Road, Wall Road, Cavedale Road, and Arnold Drive between Madrone Road and Glen Ellen. 8:45 a.m.

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office has issued an ADVISORY EVACUATION notice for residents in the Middletown area.

An evacuation advisory is not a mandatory evacuation but it is strongly recommended.

Residents are advised to gather their medications, pets and important papers, and be prepared to leave the area with little notice.

8:20 a.m.

In Mendocino County, a fire burning in Redwood and Potter valleys now is estimated at 29,500 acres and firefighters have contained 5 percent of it, according to Cal Fire officials early Wednesday.

Three people have died in the Mendocino Lake Complex fire and that count, including children, was expected to increase as firefighters and investigators continue combing through the fire’s ruin.

In Lake County, a fire burning near Clearlake is at 2,500 acres and 40 percent contained. Officials have lifted a mandatory evacuation order for parts of Clearlake.

Seven thousand people have been evacuated from the fires. New statistics released early Wednesday included 250 homes burned and 800 buildings, including homes, still threatened by the fires.

Fire officials have set Nov. 1 for having the two fires fully contained.

Wednesday, firefighters were anticipating expected gusty winds later in the day, but were hoping to strengthen firelines and gather more detailed information about structures lost.

Evacuation orders remained for many in the path of both fires. Evacuation advisory notices also have been issued for both fire areas. Check the Cal Fire incident page online for details here.

7:15 a.m.

Homes burned in Oakmont Tuesday night but numbers and locations weren’t available early Wednesday from fire officials.

“We do have information, we do have some structures that have been destroyed in Oakmont,” said Paul Lowenthal, a spokesman for the Santa Rosa-area fire.

Lowenthal said he understood the homes lost were in the higher elevations of the senior community. Oakmont, east of Santa Rosa, abuts Trione-Annadel State Park, where an arm of the Nun’s fire has been burning since Monday.

Lowenthal, at the fire’s base camp at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, noted the smoke had cleared in central Santa Rosa. “The sky is clear, the moon is clearly visible but I can see the orange haze over that side of town,” he said, referring to the view east toward Oakmont.

Early Wednesday, the fires calmed with the cooler temperatures and lack of wind. But winds were expected to increase later in the day. Gusts have been predicted to reach more than 40 mph.

“The concerns now are the transition from the cold still morning to the heat of the day and where the winds are going to take us,” Lowenthal said.

Officials during the night also increased the number of fatalities to 17 from the North Coast-area fires, including Yuba County, with 11 from the Tubbs fire in Santa Rosa.

At the other end of the Tubbs fire, closer to where it started, flames early Wednesday were threatening the greater Calistoga area.

The north end of Calistoga was evacuated overnight and the south end of town could also be evacuated, depending on the wind direction, Lowenthal said.

7 a.m.

An undetermined number of houses in Oakmont were destroyed overnight.

Mandatory evacuation orders now include parts of the Sonoma Valley near Agua Caliente outside of Sonoma, plus portions of Geyserville.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office has scheduled a news conference for 9 a.m. for more updates.

6 a.m.

There is a MANDATORY EVACUATION order for parts of Calistoga.

Cal Fire has ordered the evacuations of all residents north of Grant Street.

All remaining areas of Calistoga are under an advisory alert.

12:45 a.m., Oct. 11

SONOMA VALLEY

Parts of the Sonoma Valley are now under MANDATORY EVACUATION:

Residents of Moon Mountain Road, Mission Way, London Way, Martin Road, Cavedale Road and Adobe Way along Highway 12 approaching Agua Caliente must evacuate.

Highway 12 was closed between Madrone and Melita roads.

The Sheriff’s Office recommends Agua Caliente residents between Madrone Road and Agua Caliente Road have a bag packed and be ready to evacuate, if needed.

--The New York Times contributed to this report.