At least 11 people have died, approximately 100 have been injured, and more than 100 are reported missing, as wildfires in Northern California destroy much of the state’s wine country, according to police.
Family members have been reporting their missing loved ones in calls to an emergency hotline. According to Scott Alonso, communications director for Sonoma County, it is possible that many or most of the missing are safe, but they can’t be reached simply because of the widespread loss of cell service and other communications.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the fire has grown 2,000 acres since Monday afternoon and is now at 27,000 acres. There are 14 fires which have destroyed at least 1,500 homes.
People are being treated for smoke inhalation and other injuries at two of hospitals: Santa Rosa Memorial in Santa Rosa and Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa. Other hospitals in the area had to be evacuated because of the fires.
Of those injured, one person has been transferred to a burn center with significant burns. Fifteen of the injuries are described as moderate, and the rest are minor.
Chris Thomas, 42, of Kirkland, Wash., who was visiting Napa with his wife, Marissa, for a wine-tasting trip, told the Chronicle that he was awoken by a fire truck’s loudspeaker ordering them to leave.
“It was surreal,” Thomas said. “When I started loading stuff into the car, it was a hell-storm of smoke and ash. There were 30- to 40-mph winds. I couldn’t even breathe, so I ran back to the unit to get Marissa. It was so smoky I went to the wrong unit. When I found her I said, ‘Forget it, let’s just go.’ It went from being an annoying evacuation to something really scary.”
Former San Francisco Giants pitcher Noah Lowry fled from the inferno, forced to evacuate his wife, his two daughters and his 2-week-old son from their home in Santa Rosa in a matter of minutes as the flames approached. Lowry said he “can’t shake hearing people scream in terror as the flames barreled down on us.”
Vice President Mike Pence told Californians, “We are standing with you,” and promised that the federal government is prepared to provide any and all assistance to the state.
Authorities have imposed a sunset-to-sunrise curfew in the city of Santa Rosa and say they are on the lookout for looters as firefighters battle the blazes. Acting police Chief Craig Schwartz said the curfew will be enforced in a mandatory evacuation zone, with violators possibly subject to arrest.
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