Death Toll Climbs to 23 as Winds Fan California Wildfires

Cheryl Sanders
October 12, 2017

Strike teams and individuals from fire departments throughout Santa Barbara County are helping battle the wildfires raging in Northern and Southern California, and those left behind are preparing for strong offshore winds expected to sweep across the Central Coast, pushing fire danger to a critical level.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant says fire activity increased significantly overnight, destroying more buildings and leading to new mandatory evacuations in several areas.

Amid Northern California wildfires that have killed at least 13 people and burned more than 1,500 buildings since October 8, Southern Baptist churches have begun ministering and California Southern Baptist Convention disaster relief crews are poised for relief work.

Wesley Carr, 23, a resident of Sebastopol in Sonoma County, said smoke from the fires had enveloped the area.

Still, thousands of residents are not allowed to return home because of the evacuation orders in many parts of the North Bay, including the most recent ones in Sonoma Valley and Geyserville.

The weather gave firefighters a bit of a respite on Tuesday as cooler temperatures, lower winds and coastal fog enabled them to make headway against the flames.

The smoke that is causing hazy conditions across Southeast Idaho is coming from the massive wildfires tearing through northern California.

The other big fire, the Atlas Fire centered in Napa and Solano counties, did not grow much, according to Cal Fire; it remained at almost 43,000 acres and was 3 percent contained, up from zero the day before.

He said in the devastating Northern California fires, people were leaving important documents and photographs in safes, but when they returned and opened the safes after their homes had burned, everything was gone. "We're not going to be out of the woods for a great number of days to come", said fire chief Ken Pimlott. "These fires are changing by the minute in many areas". We would not have the confidence or trust in them in the future.

Seventeen people have been confirmed dead with officials warning that this figure could rise.

"They don't want to take any chances", Lowenthal said. Some 4,000 people are battling the fires, including crews from Nevada and the U.S. Forest Service.

Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties.

Brown also asked for a federal declaration of a major disaster in the Golden State.

"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 miles per hour in some cases", Pacific Gas and Electric Co. said in a statement.

McCallister said that some of those neighbors are the reason she and her husband were able to grab necessities and get out.

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