California wildfires one of 'greatest tragedies': Gov. Brown

Lloyd Doyle
October 19, 2017

The 31 deaths have set a new state record for the deadliest spate of wildfires in California history.

"We are still impacted by five years of drought", the director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said. With the winds dying down, fire officials said Sunday they have apparently "turned a corner" against the wildfires that have devastated California wine country and other parts of the state over the past week, and thousands of people got the all-clear to return home.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, more than 8.5 million acres have now burned in the USA this year, more than double last year's total, putting the fire season on track to meet or exceed 2015's 9.2-million-acre total - the most in recent history.

"This is a serious, critical, catastrophic event", California fire chief Ken Pimlott told reporters.

Almost 11,000 firefighters are arrayed against 14 large fires - down from 21 last week - that have charred more than 200,000 acres, mostly in the counties of Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino.

Firefighters look for hotspots in the destroyed Coffey Park neighborhood in Santa Rosa, California, October 12, 2017.

A brief resurgence of dry, gusty winds threatened to push flames into the Napa Valley town of Calistoga, whose 5000-plus residents were ordered from their homes on Wednesday night as conditions worsened and fire crept closer.

Most of the fires were less than 10 percent contained as of Thursday, with about 8,000 firefighters working to extinguish them.

Police say in some neighborhoods that are not under evacuation orders, looters are posing as firefighters and telling residents to get out, before going in and stealing items from homes.

"All your life savings and work for all the years is gone", she said.

Buildings in that area are typically constructed of stucco walls and chimney finishes, have flat roofs covered with low-pitched clay tile and terra cotta or cast-concrete ornaments, according to AIR.

The Nuns Fire, which destroyed homes early Saturday and forced widespread evacuations near Santa Rosa and the town of Sonoma, has burned 47,106 acres and was up to 25 percent containment on Sunday, from 10 percent a day earlier. "All we can do is get to the structures as fast as we possibly can and save what we can".

"It's just a very helpless feeling", she said.

Poux said it is too early to offer loss estimates for AIG policyholders in the area.

"We're cautious", she said.

Authorities are also planning for evacuees to return home eventually. "Yesterday, a lot of people didn't even know".

Most of those reported missing are presumed to have the status due to the difficulty of communicating in the area, not because they're necessarily deceased or injured.

"Towers were so badly damaged that people didn't have cell service", Kincaid said.

Firefighters from across California and Nevada were called in as reinforcements.

Perhaps just as unsafe is katabatic winds' utter lack of moisture."If the air is dry to begin with, its humidity gets ridiculously low when the winds sweep in", Belongie said.

Rain isn't expected for some time, likely later in the month.

Fierce winds, which have fanned flames with gusts as high as 70 miles per hour, drove some of the fires from a few dozen acres to tens of thousands of acres in a short time span, Jeffery said.

"When you take air from a higher elevation and bring it to a lower elevation, you're compressing it", Belongie told Live Science.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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