By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
Six separate wildfires in northern California’s wine country over the holiday weekend killed at least 10 people, severely burned several others and destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses.
Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency.
Major highways were shut and local officials requested emergency responder assistance from around the region, the San Francisco Chronicle said.
In a summary of the fires on Monday, the Chronicle reported:
- At least 1,500 homes and commercial facilities have been destroyed in Napa, Sonoma, Solano, Lake, Nevada, Butte, Calaveras, Shasta and Yuba counties.
- At least 73,000 acres in total have burned, according to the statewide Cal Fires website.
- Napa County officials said three fires are burning in their jurisdiction: the Tubbs Fire near Calistoga and Santa Rosa at 25,000 acres, the Atlas Peak Fire at 25,000 acres and the Partrick Fire in the Carneros area at 3,000 acres.
- Mandatory evacuation orders were in place for certain residential areas of Santa Rosa, numerous areas elsewhere in Sonoma County, and in and around the city of Napa. People in some neighborhoods in Fairfield were being encouraged to evacuate.
- Emergency dispatch centers in the Bay Area were overwhelmed by 911 calls. Officials urged people to only call 911 for active, unattended flames or life-threatening emergencies.
- The National Weather Service issued its highest possible alert, a red flag warning, because of extremely dry, windy conditions Monday. The warning was to stay in effect through 5 a.m. Tuesday.
Santa Rosa, a city of 175,000 residents in Sonoma County, “experienced some of the worst urban damage from a wildfire in Northern California since the massively destructive Oakland Hills fire of October 1991, which resulted in the loss of 25 lives and 2,900 structures,” the Sacramento Bee said.
Tubbs Fire Destroys Hundreds of Homes in Santa Rosa
“In the early morning hours Monday, the 27,000-acre Tubbs fire raced down the hillsides above Santa Rosa and struck the flat, densely populated landscape of the northern city. It jumped across Highway 101, destroying hundreds of homes, the Bee reported.
The fast-moving fire burned down a Kmart store, a Trader Joe’s market, a McDonald’s restaurant and engulfed a large Hilton hotel in towering flames.
Fire Chief Ken Pimlott blamed the widespread fires on bone-dry conditions and high winds combined to whip sparks into firestorms. “To be honest, pretty much anywhere in the state today (is threatened), and that’s not an exaggeration,” Pimlott told a midday Monday news conference.
Wildfires Burn Areas Scorched Earlier Near Oroville Dam
High winds stoked the flames across communities from Oroville eastward to Marysville, burning the same areas that endured several wildfires in July and August and “a near-catastrophe at Oroville Dam in February,” the Bee reported.
The Cascade fire northeast of Marysville appeared to do the most harm. It consumed more than 8,200 acres by late afternoon on Monday and left a twisted, fickle path of destruction through the tiny communities of Loma Rica and Browns Valley.