DEATH TOLL CLIMBS TO 31 PEOPLE IN CALIFORNIA WILDFIRESDate: 2017-10-13
Hundreds remain missing as at least 22 fires rampaged across California's famous wine country, and the number of people confirmed dead has risen to 31 as officials warned that conditions could get worse.
More than 8,000 firefighters are currently battling the fires, which have destroyed more than 3,500 buildings and homes over 170,000 acres and displaced approximately 25,000 people. Prison inmates have also been called in to help fight the fires.
In Sonoma City, seventeen people have been confirmed to be dead, with another eight people in Mendocino City, four people in Yuba County and two people in Napa County, according to officials.
These latest casualty figures mean that the wildfires are the deadliest in California since 1933 when 29 people were killed in fires ar Griffith Park in LA.
Strong winds that fanned the flames have eased in recent days. However, forecasters warn that they are set to pick up again Friday night.
"We are not even close to being out of this emergency," Mark Ghilarducci, state director of emergency services, told reporters.
Ken Pimlott, state fire chief, warned of "erratic, shifting winds all weekend."
According to Sonoma County Sheriff, Rob Giordano, recovery teams with cadaver dogs were searching the smouldering ruins of homes.
"We have found bodies that were completely intact, and we have found bodies that were no more than ash and bone," he said.
We are not yet sure what started the fires on Sunday night. However, officials say that power lines blown over by strong winds could be the cause.
Possibly the greatest threats to life are believed to be around the town of Calistoga, Napa County, where the entire population of 5,000 has been evacuated.
Geyserville, holding a population of 800 people, as well as the community of Boyes Hot Springs, both in Sonoma, were also ordered to evacuate.
The huge wildfires have sent smoke and ash all over San Fransisco, approximately 50 miles away, and even over some towns and cities further south.
At least 13 Napa Valley wineries have been destroyed so far, according to a vintner's trade group.
According to Nikki Lastreto of the local cannabis industry association, cannabis plantations in fire-scorched Mendocino County could potentially also lose millions as many are uninsured. Marijuana farmers cannot insure their businesses since federal law bans the drug. While recreational cannabis was legalised in the state in 2016, California's retail market only opens in January next year.