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:
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.
The 11 North Coast fires burning across five separate counties
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.
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.
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