The wildfire seems to be unstoppable in Northern California, where firefighters have been battling roughly a week against high, large embers and savagely-rapid winds. Officials had already warned people to leave the cities that have the most of the chances to be reached by the fire. Some of them acknowledged the advice and started evacuating on Saturday, but others decided to stay until the hour to run finally reaches them.
This week, winds gusted up to 45 miles per hour – as fire officials said on same Saturday. They are forecast to be equally as hard to control as last Sunday’s, where the fire started and destroyed a considerable part of the hills. Of course, that number of acres burned today is enormous.
George Cheney, 89, and Edward Stone, 79, were identified as the new Atlas fire’s victims, the Napa County officials said. According to Molly Rattigan, a county spokeswoman, these two men were found in his house in the 2300 block of Atlas Peak Road.
At least 35 deaths have been reported, but authorities said there could be more as they start to get further in the zones where the fire took place. They estimate that 5,700 structures and 214,000 acres (86,000 hectares) – roughly 334 square miles, larger than New York City – have been destroyed. As it was expected, there are hundreds of people still missing, and thousands of families wondering where they are and hoping they are safe.
The deadliest wildfire in California
From that total of confirmed causalities, 19 are from Sonoma County, eight from Mendocino County, four from Yuba County, and four from Napa County. In all of those, officials told people to evacuate and find somewhere safer.
“Today is going to be a much different day than you’ve experienced unless you were here” from the beginning, Tom Wright of the National Weather Service told fire crews in Napa at a Saturday morning briefing. “It’s a really critical day.”
This makes the deadliest wildfire in California history, and the “biggest” as Gov. Jerry Brown assured. Around 100,000 people had to leave their homes, including another 3,000 who evacuated from the city of Santa Rosa – about 50 miles (80 km) north of San Francisco – and another 250 from nearby Sonoma city.
The wildfire could affect California’s economy as some analysts say, considering that these zones are known for the wine-producing industry and tourism.
As Cal Fire spokeswoman Jaime Williams said, the winds and low humidity “will challenge the firefighting efforts. When you have these winds, it helps contribute to the spread and the intensity of the fire. Firefighters continue to strengthen perimeter control lines, provide structure defense and engage in tactical patrol,” she said. “That’s what a little wind can do. It’s still very volatile.”
She also said that California faced one of the wettest winters on record, now followed by the hottest summer on record.
This Saturday, Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris have plans to visits the affected zones in Sonoma County. Gov. Brown declared a state of emergency for Solano, Napa, Sonoma, Yuba, Butte, Lake, Mendocino and Orange counties.
Source: Los Angeles Times