Toll of Dead and Missing, Damage Mount in California Wildfires

Jim Stites watches part of his neighborhood burn in Fountaingrove, Calif., on Oct. 9, 2017. (Kent Porter/The Press Democrat via AP)

At least 15 people have been killed and more than 2,000 structures have been destroyed in a spate of wind-whipped wildfires across northern California, with more than 150 people reported missing as of this morning.


According to the latest statistics from California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the Tubbs Fire between Calistoga and Santa Rosa in Sonoma and Napa counties has charred 27,000 acres, destroyed at least 550 homes, including entire housing tracts, and 21 commercial structures, and threatens more than 16,000 more buildings. “Firefighting efforts are being hampered by numerous downed powerlines, drought stricken hazard trees and potential structural collapse from damaged buildings,” says the CAL FIRE report.

The Atlas Fire south of Lake Berryessa in Napa County has burned 25,000 acres, destroyed at least 125 structures and threatens 5,000 more. CAL FIRE says this blaze, along with the Nuns Fire, which has burned 5,000 acres in Sonoma County, and the Patrick Fire, which has scorched 1,000 acres in Napa County, “continue to burn in steep rugged terrain and heavy fuels.”

Up in Mendocino County, the Redwood/Potter Fires have ripped through 21,000 acres. In all, CAL FIRE said in their summary this morning that 17 large wildfires sparked over the preceding 24 hours, whipped up by winds and parched conditions, have burned more than 115,000 acres.

Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency in the counties of Sonoma, Napa, Yuba, Butte, Lake, Mendocino, Nevada and Orange, where a fire in the Anaheim Hills cast an eerie orange glow over a Disneyland decked out for Halloween.


“The Federal Emergency Management Agency has responded promptly to assist California in fighting these terrible fires,” Brown said today. “I appreciate the fast response from the president.”

At a White House event today, President Trump said he spoke with Brown on Monday night “to let him know that the federal government will stand with the people of California, and we will be there for you in this time of terrible tragedy and need.”

“And I just want to pay my warmest respects. They’re going through a lot,” Trump said, hailing California as a “great state.”

Among the missing: a 27-year-old wheelchair-bound woman with spina bifida who lived in a cottage on her father’s property in the hills near Santa Rosa. A neighbor found Christina Hanson’s father with third-degree burns; the Sacramento Bee reports he may have been trying to reach her when he was caught up in the flames.

Among the dead: a 100-year-old man and his 99-year-old wife, Charles and Sara Rippey, who couldn’t get out of their home near the Silverado Country Club near Napa in time. One woman was killed late last night when she was trying to evacuate, couldn’t see through the heavy smoke and drove off a road in Yuba County.


“The destruction caused by wildfires has grown more extreme and more frequent in the past decade. The fires currently devastating California underscore the need to ensure that additional attention, and federal resources, can be brought to bear in both preventing and fighting wildfires. Therefore, it is essential that we fix the way the federal government budgets for wildfire once and for all, and we urge you to support efforts in Congress to pass such a budget fix as quickly as possible without extraneous policy riders,” Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) wrote to Trump today.

“Governor Brown has determined that the severity of the wildfires is beyond the State’s capabilities, and we appreciate your swift response in issuing a major disaster declaration,” the senators added. “We urge you to direct federal agencies to assess the damage and begin disbursing individual and public assistance as soon as possible.”


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