Northern California Firefighters Battle 22 Deadly Wildfires

Northern California Firefighters Battle 22 Deadly Wildfires
Bernadine Racoma

Firefighters in Northern California continue to battle deadly blazes that have been going on since Sunday. Containment is nowhere to be seen as the weather conditions that fuel the huge fires in the region will not dissipate for several more days, according to fire officials. Strong winds but no rains are predicted for the coming days. They are bracing for the worse actually.

The casualty tally across the state is 23 as of Wednesday, but thousands have lost their homes and properties. As of last count, some 3,500 businesses and homes were gutted in the counties of Yuba, Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma. Hundreds of people are still missing.

Based on the latest update, over 170,000 acres throughout the state have been scorched by the 22 fires. Heavy smoke has forced the cancellation of some flights at the San Francisco International Airport and there are several evacuation orders in many cities and counties. The entire population of the town of Calistoga in Napa Country, numbering about 5,000, has been ordered to evacuate on Wednesday. In Sonoma County and neighboring areas, mandatory evacuation order has been issued to Geyserville and Boyce Hot Springs.

The largest fires are happening in the counties of Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma. The once picturesque landscape of the famed wine country in California is now a charred mess, with smoke still billowing from most parts.

Preparing for the long haul

During the news conference at Sonoma County, the Cal Fire (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection) director Ken Pimlott said that they are already adding more staff in preparation for the continuing weather conditions that are literally fanning the flames of these massive wildfires.

Authorities are predicting that some of the huge fires could merge and new fires could start as well. Everyone’s on the alert and bulletins are continuously released to warn residents and county officials.

In Sonoma County alone, 600 people were missing. But 315 persons were already found and they were safe, while authorities continue to look for 285 persons, according to Sheriff Rob Giordano of Sonoma Country.

Where the fires started

The first wildfire broke out in the evening of October 8 at Cherokee in Butte. Other fires also started on the same date in Atlas, Tubbs and Partrick in Napa and Nuns in Sonoma. The following day, fires were blazing in La Porte (Butte), Cascade (Yuba), Redwood Complex (Mendocino), Sulphur (Lake), and in 37 Fire, Adobe and Pocket, all in Sonoma County. On October 11, fire started in Norrbom, Sonoma. The only one with 60% containment is the first fire at Cherokee.

Cause of the fires

The actual cause of the fires has yet to be determined, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E), the main utility company in the region said that the extreme winds many call Diablo that was blowing late Sunday and early Monday in their service area caused trees to topple into the power lines. The winds were hurricane-strength, according to company spokesperson, Ari Venrenen. They believe that it could be a possible cause of the wildfires. They have been blamed in some of the wildfires in the past.

Authorities will investigate each of the fires that started this month. However, some of them could have been cause by humans. Due to drought, there’s plenty of dry vegetation and a single spark from a chain that dragged on the road, the heat from a car engine parked on dry grass or a lit cigarette butt carelessly thrown on a dry grassy patch can start a fire.

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