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California wildfires: Winds fan 'catastrophic' blazes California wildfires: Calistoga evacuated amid blazes
(about 7 hours later)
Renewed high winds are fanning "catastrophic" wildfires that have killed at least 23 people in northern California, the state fire chief says. California officials have ordered an entire city to evacuate as "conditions have worsened" in the wildfires that have killed 23 people.
Thousands of people have been left homeless by the 22 huge blazes, which are spreading fast and unpredictably. All residents of Calistoga were directed to leave the area on Wednesday evening, Napa County officials said.
Nearly 300 people are missing, but police say that may be due to the chaotic nature of evacuations. About 60 prison inmates have joined hard-pressed firefighters in battling the fast-moving blazes, the state fire chief says.
Entire towns in the state's wine-producing region have been abandoned. Among the areas scorched by the 22 blazes are marijuana farms.
The fires are among the deadliest in California's history and have sent smoke as far south as San Francisco, about 60 miles (100km) away. 'Explosive vegetation'
"This is a serious, critical, catastrophic event. We're not going to be out of the woods for a great number of days to come," said fire chief Ken Pimlott. In Wednesday evening's evacuation of Calistoga, in Napa County, all 5,000 residents were told to leave and police blocked traffic from approaching the area.
And traffic quickly clogged the exits from Boyes Hot Springs in Sonoma County as that community was also told to evacuate the advancing wall of flame.
"It's going to continue to get worse before it gets better," state fire Chief Ken Pimlott said.
He warned that the death toll could rise further.He warned that the death toll could rise further.
"We are still impacted by five years of drought. These fires were driven by the critically dry fuel bed. We are literally looking at explosive vegetation," he added."We are still impacted by five years of drought. These fires were driven by the critically dry fuel bed. We are literally looking at explosive vegetation," he added.
The devastating wildfires, which brought wind gusts of up to 45mph (72km/h), have destroyed at least 3,500 buildings and homes.
Renewed high winds are fanning the "catastrophic" blazes, said state fire officials, which are spreading unpredictably in their fourth day.
Firefighters are going door to door in the state's wine-producing region, evacuating those who are left behind ahead of the next wave of blazes.
Investigators are also searching shelters to locate nearly 300 missing people, though police say they may have scattered amid the chaos.
The fires are among the deadliest in California's history and have sent smoke as far south as San Francisco, about 60 miles (100km) away.
More than 200 fire engines and crews are being rushed to California from the rest of the US, officials said.More than 200 fire engines and crews are being rushed to California from the rest of the US, officials said.
Mr Pimlott said 73 helicopters, 30 air tankers and nearly 8,000 firefighters were currently battling the blazes.Mr Pimlott said 73 helicopters, 30 air tankers and nearly 8,000 firefighters were currently battling the blazes.
The fires have reduced entire neighbourhoods in the city of Santa Rosa, a city of 175,000 people, to ashes. The fires have reduced entire neighbourhoods in the city of Santa Rosa, a city of 175,000 people, to ash.
The evacuated towns include Calistoga in Napa County, where all 5,000 were told to leave and police stopped all traffic trying to approach the area.
At least 13 of the deaths have occurred in Sonoma County, officials say. Some 25,000 people across the county have been evacuated and 40,000 homes are without power.At least 13 of the deaths have occurred in Sonoma County, officials say. Some 25,000 people across the county have been evacuated and 40,000 homes are without power.
Six people have died in Mendocino County, two in Yuba County and two in Napa County, officials told told the Los Angeles Times.Six people have died in Mendocino County, two in Yuba County and two in Napa County, officials told told the Los Angeles Times.
Family members and friends of those missing have made appeals on social media to locate their loved ones while authorities have urged missing residents to mark themselves safe on a registry of missing people. Cannabis plantations in fire-scorched Mendocino County could lose millions as many are uninsured, according to Nikki Lastreto of the local industry association.
Among the victims were Charles Rippey, 100, and his wife, Sara, 98, who had recently celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary and who died on Sunday at their home in Napa. Marijuana farmers cannot insure their businesses since federal law bans the drug.
"They just couldn't be without each other. The fact that they went together is probably what they would have wanted," their son Mike Rippey told the New York Times. Though recreational cannabis was legalised in the state in 2016, California's retail market does not open until January 2018.
In the hills above Santa Rosa, resident Peter Lang was forced to choose between saving his home or more than 1,000 animals that were trapped at his Safari West wildlife preserve, the Press Democrat newspaper reported. This means some farmers who have invested millions may be left without a business once the smoke clears.
The 77-year-old owner said he did not lose a single animal, but his home was destroyed.
At least four wineries have suffered "total or very significant losses", Napa Valley Vintners said, with nine others reporting some damage to buildings or vineyards.At least four wineries have suffered "total or very significant losses", Napa Valley Vintners said, with nine others reporting some damage to buildings or vineyards.
California Governor Jerry Brown declared emergencies in Sonoma, Napa and five other counties.
US President Donald Trump has also approved a disaster declaration, allowing federal emergency aid to be disbursed.
Before and after