At least 17 killed, more evacuations in Northern California wildfires (video)

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The Napa County Sheriff’s Office ordered more evacuations early Wednesday morning as multiple wildfires raced toward neighborhoods in Northern California.

Residents in parts of the town of Calistoga were told to evacuate “as a result of significant changing fire conditions,” according to the release. The new order asked all residents north of Grant Street to leave their homes and to let family members know they were leaving beforehand.

Home to roughly 5,000 people, Calistoga is famous for its wineries.

Hundreds of firefighters poured into the area to battle against more than a dozen wildfires that have left at least 17 people dead and devastated more than 156 square miles in California’s wine country.

Brad Alexander, a spokesman for the governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said firefighters from throughout the state would join the fight Tuesday, along with fire crews from the U.S. Forest Service in Nevada, the Associated Press reported.

Approximately 25,000 people had to be evacuated from the fires that are still burning out of control, and thousands of buildings have gone up in flames. California’s fire chief said at least 2,000 homes and commercial buildings have been destroyed by the fires, according to the AP.

Winds are expected to pick up again on Wednesday, which will add fuel to the flames.

Methods of communicating have been affected across the county, the AP also reported, so it’s possible that many of the “missing” people are simply unable to make contact.

At least three deaths and several injuries were reported in Mendocino County, Sheriff Tom Allman said during a Tuesday press conference.

In Yuba County, a woman died while trying to flee the flames in her vehicle, the county’s coroner confirmed Tuesday to KCRA. Two deaths were reported in Napa County Monday, according to Cal Fire.

Vice President Mike Pence was in California for a fundraising event for Republican congressional candidates on Monday, and while he was there, he promised federal assistance to California.

“I can assure you, as I did the governor, the federal government stands ready to provide any and all assistance to the state of California as your courageous firefighters and first responders confront this widening challenge,” Pence said.

California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency Monday in Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties, where the fires are the worst.

Noting that this is traditionally the worst time of the year for fires in the region, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Director Ken Pimlott told the AP: “Imagine a wind-whipped fire burning at explosive rates. This is 50 miles per hour. Literally, it’s burning into the city of Santa Rosa … burning box stores.”

Sonoma County resident Marian Williams described the blaze as “an inferno like you’ve never seen before. Trees were on fire like torches.”

The L.A. Times noted that entire blocks in the Fountain Grove area of Santa Rosa were leveled, and the city’s new fire station, Fire State 5, was destroyed. The fire also burned Santa Rosa’s historic round barn, the city’s K-mart, the Santa Rosa Hilton Sonoma Hotel and destroyed homes at the Journey’s End Mobile Home Park.

“It’s real bad,” Cal Fire Battalion Chief Marshall Tuberville told the Times. “This is an example of nature in control, and we are doing what we can, but we’re not being that effective at stopping the fire.”

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