California In Flames: 31 Dead and Hundreds Still Missing

At least 31 people are dead and hundreds still missing as California wildfires rage through the west coast.


Photo: Kent Porter/The Press Democrat via AP

The deadliest wildfires to strike the state of California continue to consume the state. It is being said that these are the deadliest spate of wildfires to strike the state in over 80 years, and it’s not over yet. People are being driven from their homes, the air is mostly smoke, and the death toll is rising.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection officials have said close to 190,000 acres had been scorched across the state as of Thursday afternoon. High winds and dry conditions are spreading the fires with frightening speed. The county suffering from the most damage is Sonoma County. This area is north of San Francisco and has 17 confirmed deaths and over 400 reported missing. In another city, Santa Rosa, nearly 3,000 homes destroyed.

Feedback from Mayor and National Weather Service

“We all have suffered a trauma here, and we’re going to be a long time in recovering from this incident,” Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey told reporters Thursday afternoon. “The city of Santa Rosa has suffered a serious blow in these fires.”

The National Weather Service provided a bit of good news on Thursday. They reported that the wind that fueled the blazes were expected to stay light through Friday. Unfortunately, the relief will be brief, as high north winds were expected to kick up over the weekend.

“We’re not out of the woods, and we’re not going to be out of the woods for a number of days to come,” California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Chief Ken Pimlott said Wednesday. “We’re literally looking at explosive vegetation. These fires are burning actively during the day and at night.”

Impacts to Local Industries

The fires have charred neighborhoods, resorts and destroyed vineyards, struck during harvest season. Those in the industry think the damage to grapes would have been worse any other year. At least four wineries in Napa have suffered total or significant losses. An additional nine wineries reported some damage. At least two wineries in Sonoma are thought to be severely affected. Several hotels and restaurants are thought to have been destroyed. With fires still burning, people still being evacuated and owners unable to access their vineyards, the full scope of the damage will be unknown for days to come.

Air Quality in San Fransico

Over the past couple of days, the Air Quality Index in parts of the Bay Area has reached “unhealthy” levels, which means that even active, healthy adults should limit prolonged outdoor exertion. Spending 24 hours outdoors when the air quality gets this bad is about as bad as smoking five cigarettes.

It’s too early to determine the health effects of the current fires.

“We haven’t yet seen a really noticeable uptick in respiratory issues,” said Brent Andrew, spokesperson for the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. “But this is the type of thing where we may see a trailing effect, after several days.”

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