Wildfires in Northern California Kill at Least 10 and Destroy 1,500 Buildings

© 2017 New York Times News Service

SANTA ROSA, Calif. — Fast-moving wildfires raged across Northern California on Monday, killing at least 10 people, sending well over 100 to hospitals, forcing up to 20,000 to evacuate and destroying more than 1,500 buildings in one of the most destructive fire emergencies in the state’s history.

Firefighters were battling blazes in eight counties, officials said.

In Santa Rosa, the fire gutted a Hilton hotel and flattened the Journey’s End retirement community, a trailer park not far from the freeway that crosses the city. Most of the trailers were leveled, leaving a smoldering debris field of household appliances, filing cabinets and the charred personal effects of more than 100 residents. Pieces of ash fell like snowflakes, and a pall of white smoke across the city blotted out the sun.

Janet Upton, a deputy director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said that at least 15 separate fires across the region had destroyed more than 1,500 homes and businesses and burned about 94,000 acres since late Sunday night. At least 10 people had been killed as of Monday evening, she said: seven in Sonoma County, two in Napa County and one in Mendocino County.

The property damage, already among the worst seen in a fire in California, was expected to increase. In Santa Rosa, the seat of Sonoma County, the authorities imposed a curfew starting at sunset and said they were watching for looters.

Gov. Jerry Brown issued emergency proclamations for Butte, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Sonoma and Yuba counties, saying the fires had damaged critical infrastructure and threatened thousands of homes. He also asked President Donald Trump to declare a major disaster.

“This is really serious. It’s moving fast. The heat, the lack of humidity and the winds are all driving a very dangerous situation and making it worse,” the governor said at a morning news conference. “It’s not under control by any means. But we’re on it in the best way we know how.”

Hospitals in Napa and Sonoma counties reported scores of patients with fire-related ailments.

The causes remained under investigation on Monday afternoon.

Reports suggested that residents had been caught unaware, many of them fleeing in cars and on foot as firefighters rushed to contain the outbreak. A number of roadways, including highways, were blocked by fire.

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