Deadly California wildfire forces widespread evacuations

Fires ravaged Northern California Monday, leaving at least ten people dead, and forcing thousands to evacuate as entire neighborhoods were razed to the ground.

Gov. Jerry Brown of California declared a state of emergency Monday for Napa, Sonoma, and Yuba counties because of the fires, which started Sunday evening and spread with “extremely gusty winds.”

“These fires have destroyed structures and continue to threaten thousands of homes, necessitating the evacuation of thousands of residents,” the governor said in an emergency statement. “These fires have damaged and continue to threaten critical infrastructure and have forced the closure of major highways and local roads.”

Advertisement

At least three hospitals have been evacuated so far, including the Kaiser Hospital and Sutter Hospital in Santa Rosa and the Sonoma Developmental Center, a special needs hospital, according to the Sonoma County Fire Department’s administrative analyst, Georgette Darcy.

Lt. Col. Tom Keegan, the director of public affairs for the California National Guard, told VICE News that the Guard is sending two medical evacuation helicopters, up to six helicopters to drop water, and around 100 military police to help assist the evacuation process. Keegan also said they are considering sending C-130s — large military transport aircrafts — to drop flame retardant.

Fifteen “new large major wildfires have been sparked and fanned by extremely gusty winds” over the past 12 hours, hitting Northern California the hardest, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said on Facebook Live.

Jeff Whitehead, the general manager at the Hotel La Rose in Santa Rosa told VICE News that although the hotel was at capacity, he’s been fielding constant calls from people feeling the fires.

“We’re taking a call at a time and a person at a time,” Whitehead said, adding that many staff members were forced to evacuate, leaving the hotel operating on a “skeleton staff.”

So far, tens of thousands of acres have been razed to the ground, and in Napa County alone, the spreading fires have burnt through 60,000 acres, according to data from Cal Fire.

Advertisement

The Sonoma County Fire Department told VICE News they are receiving assistance from other fire departments and that firefighters are “fighting multiple fires” in the area, some of which are still uncontained.

The town of Santa Rosa, whose mayor said he had “never seen anything like this,” has been one of the hardest hit.

Schools also closed Monday, including Sonoma State University and Santa Rosa Junior College,, according to the Sacramento Bee.