Wildfires raging across Northern California have killed at least 17 people, as hundreds of firefighters battle the flames and keep thousands of people away from the blaze’s path.
Most of the fires were ignited Sunday, driven by winds of more than 50 mph and dry conditions. With no rain in the forecast this week and a chance of gusts of 35 to 40 mph on Wednesday, forecasters say the weather will create challenges for firefighters.
More than 20,000 people had been ordered to evacuate as of Tuesday night and authorities were encouraging others to pack “ready-to-go bags” with documents and medicines, in case they had to flee the fast-spreading flames on a moment’s notice.
“I think it would be one of the worst disasters in California history,” Captain Mike Palacio with the California Highway Patrol said at a community meeting. “You gotta be patient. We are just trying to keep people alive.”
Wildfires have burned more than 122,000 acres in California. The largest fires were burning in Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties, filling the picturesque landscape of the state’s wine country with charred rubble and clouds of smoke.
The White House said President Donald Trump has signed a major disaster declaration and fire management assistance grants for the state.
“The loss of homes and burning of precious land is heartbreaking, but the loss of life is truly devastating,” Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said.