California wildfires toll reaches 23

California wildfires toll reaches 23

At least 23 people have been killed in more than 16 wildfires that continue to burn across Northern California. At its peak, the sheriff's office had received 670 missing persons reports.

Entire towns in the state's wine-producing region have been abandoned.

Flames erupted on Sunday night when gale force winds toppled power lines across the region, possibly igniting one of the deadliest wildfire outbreaks in California history.

"This is a serious, critical, catastrophic event".

Redwood City State Senator Jerry Hill said if negligence is found to be the cause for the electric equipment fires, it's going to be time to dissolve PG&E.

The sheriff said he expected the death toll to go up. These fires were driven by the critically dry fuel bed.

"When you look at the destruction, it's literally like it exploded", Pimlott said a day before that prediction.

But authorities point to a ideal storm of factors that have fanned the wildfires that began Sunday night, leaving at left 17 people dead, forcing 20,000 to evacuate and causing widespread devastation in Northern California. Because of the sharp, dry winds and what the fire chief called "smoke inversion", air tankers were forced to play a cautious role in dousing the blazes.

Manned roadblocks were set up between Sonoma and devastated areas of Santa Rosa.

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As of Wednesday morning, mandatory evacuation orders remained in effect in areas of Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties, according to Cal Fire.

At least 13 of the deaths have occurred in Sonoma County, officials say.

Jessica Tunis has been calling hospitals and posting on social media in a frantic effort to find her mother, Linda Tunis, who she last spoke to on Monday, according to The Associated Press. Among the dead in Napa were a couple aged 99 and 100 years old who had been married for 75 years, KTVU-TV said.

"They just couldn't be without each other".

In the aftermath, the SF Business Times brings us this montage of mostly drone footage of Santa Rosa, and the burned areas around Coffey Park and the Fountaingrove neighborhood, including the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country hotel, which was completely destroyed.

An aerial view of homes that were destroyed by wildfire in Santa Rosa, Calif.

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At least four wineries have suffered "total or very significant losses", Napa Valley Vintners said, with nine others reporting some damage to buildings or vineyards.

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.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday approved a major disaster declaration, clearing the way for federal help with the disaster, saying that "the federal government will stand with the people of California".

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