Three dead as multiple wildfires in California burn homes, prompt evacuations

Multiple blazes were burning out of control in Northern California on Monday, killing three people, destroying an untold number of homes and prompting thousands to evacuate in a state already battered by wildfires in recent months.

Eddy Whitmore evacuates from his Santa Rosa, Calif., home as the Shady Fire approaches on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020.Noah Berger / AP

In Shasta County, Sheriff Eric Magrini said that three people died after the Zogg Fire exploded in size, jumping from a few hundred acres Sunday afternoon to 15,000 less than 24 hours later.

Magrini did not provide additional details about the victims, saying that their next of kin still need to be notified. But he pleaded with residents to heed evacuation orders.

“This is fast-moving,” he said. “When you hear that order, evacuate immediately.”

According to the California Department of Fire and Forest Protection, or Cal Fire, the blaze, which ignited southwest of the city of Redding, had no containment on Monday afternoon.

Five hundred structures were threatened by the blaze, a CalFire spokesman said earlier. He added that reports of damaged and destroyed buildings have not been confirmed by the department.

North of the San Francisco Bay Area, in Napa and Sonoma counties, the Glass Fire rapidly scorched more than 36,000 acres and is zero percent contained, according to Cal Fire Division Chief Ben Nichols. It started early Sunday in Napa Valley and roared west overnight, merging with two other fires and burning through vineyards and buildings, fire officials said.

At least 8,500 structures are threatened by it, according to NBC Bay Area. No injuries or deaths have been confirmed, Nichols said, though Nichols said he’d heard reports of burned residents and injured firefighters.

State Sen. Bill Dodd, who represents the area, estimated that hundreds of homes, wineries and other businesses were destroyed after the blaze exploded Sunday night amid powerful winds and high temperatures.

“This was pretty devastating,” Dodd said after touring areas hit hard by the fire. “Just literally hundreds and hundreds of homes devastated with nothing standing.”

Among the well-known businesses that Dodd said burned were Calistoga Ranch, a luxury resort, and parts of Meadowood, a resort with a Michelin-starred restaurant. Also lost in the fire was the Château Boswell Winery in St. Helena, a family-owned winery founded in 1979.

The burned remains of Calistoga Ranch in Napa Valley, Calif., on Sept. 28, 2020.State Sen. Bill Dodd

“It was like a nuclear bomb went off,” Dodd said of Calistoga Ranch. “You couldn’t see anything green anywhere. It was just utter devastation.”

The blaze also made a run toward Santa Rosa, a city of nearly 175,000 in Sonoma County that lost hundreds of homes three years ago after flames jumped a highway and scorched the neighborhood of Coffey Park, fire officials said.

Santa Rosa Fire Chief Anthony Gossner said Monday that there were “significant losses” in the neighborhood of Oakmont. Gossner didn’t know how many buildings burned, but he said many were ranch homes.

“With a fire like this there are never enough resources to do what you need,” he said.

Sonoma County Sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Crum said that 68,000 people were under mandatory evacuation in Sonoma alone. Dodd estimated that at least another 10,000 were under similar orders in Napa.

Among those shuttled to safety were residents of the Oakmont Village retirement community in Santa Rosa, city spokeswoman Elise Howard said.

About 100 residents who don’t drive or have nearby loved ones to pick them up were loaded on to five city buses between midnight and 1 a.m. PT and taken to an evacuation center set up at a park 11 miles away, Howard added.

Residents of the Oakmont Gardens senior home evacuate as the Shady Fire approaches in Santa Rosa, Calif., on Sept. 28, 2020.Noah Berger / AP

In Butte County, the town of Paradise, which was devastated by California’s deadliest fire on record two years ago,was put under an evacuation warning Sunday, meaning residents should prepare to leave any minute.

The town is near the North Complex Fire, a series of blazes that began more than a month ago and have burned more than 300,000 acres north of Sacramento. According to CalFire, the fire is 78 percent contained.

The fires that erupted over the weekend are only the latest blazes in what officials have called a historic wildfire seasons. Since the beginning of the year, there have been more than 8,100 wildfires that have burned more than 3.7 million acres in California, Cal Fire said Sunday.

The state has recorded 29 fatalities and more than 7,000 structures have been destroyed.

David K. Li and Kurt Chirbas contributed.

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