40 dead, thousands homeless in California as fires rage on

Wildfires grow to 100 miles wide, tear through northern California killing 40, destroying nearly 6,000 homes.

David Rosenberg ,

Devastation wrought by fires in Napa County
Devastation wrought by fires in Napa County

The death toll from a series of forest fires in Northern California climbed to 40 over the weekend, destroying thousands of buildings and ravaging hundreds of thousands of acres in and around California’s wine country north of the San Francisco Bay Area.

More than 100,000 residents remain under evacuation orders in Napa, Sonoma, Yuba, Butte, Lake, and Mendocino counties, as of early Sunday morning.

The wildfires broke out Northern California on October 8th, spreading across hundreds of thousands of acres of forests and destroying at least 5,700 homes. In addition to the 40 killed, more than 100 were injured, mostly from smoke inhalation.

Rumors of looting left some residents on edge, AP reported.

“We’re on pins and needles,” Santa Rosa resident Travis Oglesby said. “We’re hearing about looting.”

Seventeen fires are still active across Northern California, some as wide as 100 miles.

Over 10,000 firefighters and 1,000 fire engines are battling the blazes, the largest of which is now 56% contained.

Of the 40 victims killed by the fires, most died late in the night of October 8th or before dawn on October 9th, as the fires spread rapidly and before residents had been warned of the blazes. Many of the victims, it appears, were killed as they slept when the firestorms, fuelled by heavy winds, ripped through residential areas.

“It’s a horror that no one could have imagined,” California Governor Jerry Brown said.

Brown, a long-time resident of the Oakland hills and former Mayor of Oakland, said the fire was the worst of his lifetime – surpassing the devastating October 1991 Oakland hills firestorm which claimed 25 lives and destroyed 3,300 homes.