“We often have multiple fires going on, but the majority of them all started right around same time period, same time of night – it’s unprecedented,” she told the Guardian. “I hate using that word because it’s been overused a lot lately because of how fires have been in the past few years, but it truly is – there’s just been a lot of destruction.”
California’s governor, Jerry Brown, has declared a state of emergency in eight mostly northern counties – Butte, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Sonoma and Yuba counties. The flames are barely contained and are threatening thousands of homes and vineyards in the wine country north of San Francisco.
Nine of the deaths occurred in Napa and Sonoma counties, while another was farther north, in Mendocino county, officials said.
The wildfires, whipped by powerful winds early on Monday, sent residents on a headlong flight to safety through smoke and flames as homes burned. Around 20,000 people have been evacuated, including hundreds of senior citizens from local nursing homes.
Entire neighborhoods and a trailer park in the town of Santa Rosa, 55 miles from San Francisco, have already been razed, along with a Hilton hotel, according to local reports.
Officials say the high winds are hampering firefighting efforts in the region about 140 miles (225km) north of San Francisco. To assist with the efforts the country’s largest firefighting aircraft – a converted 747 – has been deployed.
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