On Monday, October 9, multiple wildfires swept across northern California, destroying some 2,000 homes and other buildings, killing 17 people and displacing tens of thousands of others. California Governor Jerry Brown declared states of emergency in Butte, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Sonoma, and Yuba counties, where the destruction is worst. Dozens of people remain missing as the fires continue to burn.
Unusually hot and dry weather this summer has created ideal conditions for wildfires across northern California. At least 15 separate blazes broke out over the weekend, and strong winds whipped the flames across some 114 square miles (295 square kilometers). Napa and Sonoma counties, the heart of California’s wine country, were hardest hit. The status of the grape harvest remains unclear, but damage from fire and smoke is almost certainly widespread. Fires devastated parts of the city of Santa Rosa, where entire neighborhoods have been left in ashes and cinders.
Skies from San Francisco to Sacramento to Eureka remain choked with smoke and haze, and an orange glow illuminates the night. Numerous roads, schools, and business are closed, and several hospitals in the fire zone have been evacuated. Thousands of firefighters and numerous firefighting aircraft—including the massive Global SuperTanker (a converted Boeing 747 airliner)—are battling the blazes. Amy Head, the fire captain spokesperson for Cal Fire, the state agency responsible for fire protection, said the fires were probably linked to a warming climate. “It has been hotter, it has been drier, our fire seasons have been longer, fires are burning more intensely, which is a direct correlation to the climate changing,” she said.
Another state of emergency was declared on Monday in southern California’s Orange County, where a wildfire destroyed several homes in the affluent Anaheim Hills neighborhood and forced the evacuation of hundreds of residents.
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Image: Firefighters hose the flames of a burning home in the Napa wine region of California late on Oct. 9, 2017. Credit: © Josh Edelson, AFP/Getty Images