NorCal Wildfires Death Toll Climbs To 23 As "Destructive" Winds Fan Flames

After slackening earlier in the week, the dry, nearly hurricane-force winds that have been fanning the flames in Northern California picked up again overnight, revitalizing what some are already describing as the most devastating wildfires in the state’s modern history.

As of Thursday morning, 23 people have been confirmed dead in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Yuba counties. Another 200 are missing. Fires have swallowed more than 3,500 homes and businesses over more than 170,000 acres. And the state’s emergency shelters are rapidly approaching their limits as more than 25,000 people have fled with more than 4,000 staying in the shelters, according to the Washington Post.

The death toll is expected to rise significantly as officers reenter the “hot zones” that were totally destroyed by the fires.

“We can’t even get into most of the areas,” Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano said. “When we start doing searches, I expect that number to go up.”

Though the official cause of the fires has yet to be determined, California utility PG&E has acknowledged that the extreme winds late Sunday and early Monday had knocked trees into power lines, potentially causing dry foliage and grass to ignite.   

Destroyed residential neighborhood in Santa Rosa.

“The historic wind event that swept across PG&E’s service area late Sunday and early Monday packed hurricane-strength winds in excess of 75 mph in some cases,” said Ari Vanrenen, a PG&E spokeswoman, in a statement released after the San Jose Mercury News first revealed a possible link between the wildfires and downed power lines.

“These destructive winds, along with millions of trees weakened by years of drought and recent renewed vegetation growth from winter storms, all contributed to some trees, branches and debris impacting our electric lines across the North Bay,” she said.

Since Sunday, at least 22 separate wildfires have broken out across the region.

In a chilling hint at the potential human toll, 600 people were reported missing, though the sheriff’s office said Wednesday night that 315 have been located safe. Another 285 are still reported missing, but many may have lost cellphones or Internet access, or otherwise been unable to communicate with relatives.

More than 8,000 firefighters are working to contain the fires, which are primarily in Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma counties. In Sonoma County alone, more than a half-dozen separate wildfires have erupted since Sunday. The city of Santa Rosa, the county seat of Sonoma, has been particularly hard hit.

The fires have overwhelmed attempts by state firefighters to contain them, and are now burning mostly uncontrolled. State officials have warned that some of the big fires could merge – the total number of fires has fallen from 14 to eight - even as new blazes erupted, and thousands of people have been told to prepare to leave their homes, if they haven’t already. Evacuations continue, including one order covering the entire city of Calistoga in Napa County. In neighboring Sonoma County, residents in Geyserville were urged to leave Wednesday evening. Two hours later, another evacuation order was issued in the Sonoma Valley.

“This is a serious, critical, catastrophic event,” Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott said.

At least 14 wineries have burned, potentially crippling the state’s iconic wine industry.

However, wine isn’t the only “growth industry” that’s been devastated by the wildfires. Marijuana farms in the state’s “Emerald Triangle” in Mendocino Country have burned, possibly constraining supplies just before legal sales are set to begin in January 2018.  And what’s worse, because marijuana-focused businesses often don’t have access to financial services like banking and insurance, the owners could be on the hook for losses, accoding to CNN.

"Nobody right now has insurance," said Nikki Lastreto, secretary of the Mendocino Cannabis Industry Association.

Stories of people fleeing in a blind panic after spotting flames on the horizon – or worse, unsuspecting elderly victims who didn’t detect the fire until it was too late for them to run – have proliferated have caused many to wonder how the fire took so many people in  Sonoma and Napa counties by surprise?

Well, in a disturbing report, the San Francisco Chronicle reveals that Sonoma County authorities decided against sending a mass alert to cell phones Sunday evening warning about the wildfires.

As fires that would prove devastating burned across the North Bay late Sunday, Sonoma County considered sending a mass alert to cell phones in the region to warn of the rapidly spreading flames. But county officials decided against it, worried that doing so might create widespread panic and hinder the ability of first responders to combat the blazes.

 

It’s unclear how much that decision might have affected area residents’ responses to the deadly wildfires, particularly since many cell phone towers were destroyed in the blaze, making such messages undeliverable. But it adds to concerns that some in the fires’ paths were not alerted about the danger, leaving them little time to flee.

After just four days, the cost of the fires will strain the budgets of both state and federal agencies. This year alone, the US Forest Service has spent a record-breaking $2.4 billion to suppress more than 50,000 fires. The Forest

Service’s previous record was $1.7 billion in 2015. Over the last twenty years, the amount the Forest Service has allocated to fight wildfires has tripled from 16% of the overall budget to 52%. The agency estimates that by 2025, that number will increase to 67%.

Meanwhile, the fires are just one of 22 disasters that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is managing across the nation. FEMA says more than 85% of its 9,900 full-time employees are working “in the field” right now.

Comments

hedgeless_horseman Juggernaut x2 Thu, 10/12/2017 - 10:42 Permalink

 

Though the official cause of the fires has yet to be determined...

Marijuana farms in the state’s “Emerald Triangle” in Mendocino Country have burned, possibly constraining supplies just before legal sales are set to begin in January 2018.  And what’s worse, because marijuana-focused businesses often don’t have access to financial services like banking and insurance, the owners could be on the hook for losses, accoding to CNN.

Mexican Cartels would never set fires to competitors' crops.

In reply to by Juggernaut x2

Mr. Universe loves the truth Thu, 10/12/2017 - 11:26 Permalink

Look Look! FIRE! Pay no attention to our lies in Las Vegas, that's old news. I would hate to think they are capable of such a heinous act, but they are. However, the winds were very nasty that night and I live in one of the windiest spots, so much so that our surrounding hills have no trees and a huge windfarm is right across the bay from us.School has been cancelled today here and air quality is unhealthy. There has also been very little wind here, strange.

In reply to by loves the truth

GUS100CORRINA jamesmmu Thu, 10/12/2017 - 11:01 Permalink

NorCal Wildfires Death Toll Climbs To 23 As "Destructive" Winds Fan FlamesI know this is a real problem for many who live in CA and my heart goes out them. So what caused this tragedy? I did see some information very recently that indicated that this entire tragedy in CA may have started as a result of a minor meteor storm of very small meteors that landed in CA. Of course, with dense, dry forest areas, it would not take much to get fires started.It also looks like the lack of proper forestry management practices as a result of OVER ZEALOUS ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS has contributed greatly to the disaster. Remember the SPOTTED OWL controversy under POTUS Bill Clinton?So, in America, we have seen FIRES, DROUGHTS, FLOODS, HURRICANES, TORANDOES, EARTHQUAKES, DRY RIVERS (Mississippi River), and PESTILENCE with much of these disasters happening right after the Solar Eclipse. Message from the GOD of the Bible maybe? We should know shortly.The only things missing are INSECT INFESTATION, FAMINE and a FINANCIAL CRASH.Reminds me of the PLAGUES of EGYPT found in Book of Exodus.On top of all the above, the EARTH POLES have shifted with NORTH POLE now believed to be in Siberia, Russia. This new rotation explains disappearing water along the coast lines with an entirely new dynamic in play. Remember, the earth is traveling about 66,000 miles per hour in space with rotational speed of well over 1000 miles per hour on the surface. It is interesting how we forget these facts and wonder why wind changes on the surface of CA are violent.

In reply to by jamesmmu

SummerSausage Thu, 10/12/2017 - 10:23 Permalink

When will we get national fire control laws? There should be laws about who is allowed to have fire.  We must control the climate so lightning fires are a thing of the past.This must be Trump's fault and his knuckledragging supporters.Fire is too dangerous to trust to the people.

Cautiously Pes… Thu, 10/12/2017 - 10:24 Permalink

Some say the end is near.Some say we'll see Armageddon soon.I certainly hope we will.I sure could use a vacation from thisBullshit three ring circus sideshow of freaksHere in this hopeless fucking hole we call L.A.The only way to fix it is to flush it all away.Any fucking time. Any fucking day.Learn to swim, I'll see you down in Arizona Bay.Fret for your figure andFret for your latte andFret for your lawsuit andFret for your hairpiece andFret for your Prozac andFret for your pilot andFret for your contract andFret for your car.It's a bullshit three ring circus sideshow of freaksHere in this hopeless fucking hole we call L.A.The only way to fix it is to flush it all away.Any fucking time. Any fucking day.Learn to swim, I'll see you down in Arizona Bay.Some say a comet will fall from the sky.Followed by meteor showers and tidal waves.Followed by fault lines that cannot sit still.Followed by millions of dumbfounded dip shits.Some say the end is near.Some say we'll see Armageddon soon.I certainly hope we will causeI sure could use a vacation from thisStupid shit, silly shit, stupid shit...One great big festering neon distraction,I've a suggestion to keep you all occupied.Learn to swim. [3x]Mom's gonna fix it all soon.Mom's comin' round to put it back the way it ought to be.Learn to swim.Fuck L Ron Hubbard andFuck all his clones.Fuck all these gun-totingHip gangster wannabes.Learn to swim.Fuck retro anything.Fuck your tattoos.Fuck all you junkies andFuck your short memory.Learn to swim.Fuck smiley glad-handsWith hidden agendas.Fuck these dysfunctional,Insecure actresses.Learn to swim.Cause I'm praying for rainAnd I'm praying for tidal wavesI wanna see the ground give way.I wanna watch it all go down.Mom, please flush it all away.I wanna see it go right in and down.I wanna watch it go right in.Watch you flush it all away.Time to bring it down again.Don't just call me pessimist.Try and read between the lines.I can't imagine why you wouldn'tWelcome any change, my friend.I wanna see it all come down.Bring it downSuck it down.Flush it down.

Silver Savior Thu, 10/12/2017 - 10:30 Permalink

I am right on the outskirts of all this. So what lies and rumors do you all want me to debunk? Very sad. Entire neighborhoods gone. Shells of autos all over. Peoples animals roaming the streets. The ones that made it out of course. The fire near me is going east. California has many fires all at once!

Freddie SummerSausage Thu, 10/12/2017 - 10:45 Permalink

Calif and Jerry Brown suck along with the liberal western USA.  These fires are common.  Cali wastes tens of billions on illegal aliens, $250K a year lifeguard pensions and the list goes on.  The state allows Apple and all the mega companies to avoid taxes and hide profits "offshore" in Nevada.A fraction of the money pissed away could have been used to buy 100 firetrucks for volunteer firemen for emergencies like this. Have 33 parked in the north, 33 in the central and 33 in the south.The Feds also piss away hundreds of billions on fake wars, a US navy filled with Mexican officers named Sanchez (2 or 3 taco munching brothers) on the USS McShame who crash into huge tankers. $2 trillion spent on the police state/MIC. Calif and the Feds instead of spending $300 million on useless F-35s could have 20 water bombers.  Instead of Calif spending tens of billions on illegals.  They could have had an extra 20 water bomber planes.  They should have been laying down water bumbs every 10 minutes on Santa Rosa.Thank goodness more conservative and Jesus loving Colo Springs has been sending a 747 firefighting plane dropping flame retardant that covers 3 miles long and a mile wide.Kudo to the firefighters on the ground.  It is a dangeorus awful job.  The people in Calif only have themselves to blame.  They worship hollywood, illegals, facebook, silicon valley, apple etc - if they had invested in 15 to 20 water bomber planes - lives and property would have been saved.   

In reply to by SummerSausage