Our nation has had its hands full dealing with natural disasters and tragedies of late, and we’re not out of the woods just yet. Wildfires are raging in California’s wine country, and they show no signs of slowing down.
Gov. Jerry Brown has been forced to declare a state of emergency, as an estimated 1,500 properties have been destroyed thus far. Residents in Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties are fleeing the flames en masse, as reports indicate that nearly 20,000 people have been forced to evacuate.
“These fires have destroyed structures and continue to threaten thousands of homes, necessitating the evacuation of thousands of residents,” the declaration from Brown read in part.
Brown has also reached out directly to President Donald Trump in a lengthy letter to request federal emergency aid. According to BBC weather, conditions point to things getting worse before they get better. No rain is expected over the next several days, and tinder dry conditions are anticipated to continue.
Images and video of the devastation thus far is nothing short of chilling, and that feeling becomes exacerbated by the fact that things may get even worse.
Many people question how such a devastating event even started. 60 wildfires starting in one night, with no known cause, is odd to say the least.
In Sonoma county, seven people have been reported dead so far. County sheriff Rob Giordano explained that he fears the death toll will only rise as officials go through the wreckage and assess the damage caused by the raging fires.
“There is a lot of burned homes and a lot of burned areas, so it’s just logical that we’re gonna find more people,” he said.
Social media has been littered with updates from affected residents, and a feeling of powerlessness is beginning to rule the day.
Napa really hurting right now. I pray everyone gets home safe and we pull together as a community to help those who are affected. pic.twitter.com/Gr47w9ZITu
— Cakes (@MikaylaSegura) October 9, 2017
— Solar Design 4 U (@SolarWindCenter) October 10, 2017
The weather phenomenon behind the destructive wildfires in California’s wine country. https://t.co/7YShVKLZsK
— Amelia Karras (@amelia_karras) October 10, 2017
— Miami Herald (@MiamiHerald) October 10, 2017
Valerie Schropp, a resident of Santa Rosa, explained to BBC that the fire caught area residents by surprise.
“We have never seen anything like this before, it is such a fast-moving fire,” Schropp said. “We have backpacks by the door. This is a city of 175,000. It’s for earthquakes. This is big earthquake country. We don’t expect fires to come into the city and burn at the rate they did.”
The cause of the fires is not yet known, but a perfect storm of conditions has led to them spreading rapidly. High winds, low humidity and hot, dry weather have combined to transform the area into a scene reminiscent of a disaster flick. As Cal Fire director Ken Pimlott explains, the conditions are unusual for the area.
“This is exactly what you would expect in the Southern California fall fire season,” he said.
As you would imagine, Napa Valley is chock full of pricey vineyards owned by the jet set crowd. BBC notes that musician Dave Matthews closed up his winery in response to the flames, while the nearby Francis Ford Coppola Winery also closed up shop.
Vineyard owner Ken Moholt-Siebert explained to the LA Times how suddenly conditions deteriorated across the region.
“There was no wind, then there would be a rush of wind and it would stop,” he said. “Then there would be another gust from a different direction. The flames wrapped around us.”