California Wildfires happen. But this is THE WORST EVER. Death, destruction, missing persons, bankruptcies and more. It’s a national tragedy.
The fast-moving fires spread by shifting winds forced thousands more Californians to evacuate their homes on Saturday as the death toll from the deadliest blaze recorded in the state’s history rose to at least 40, with hundreds of people still missing.
More than 10,000 firefighters supported by air tankers and helicopters overhead were battling 16 major wildfires, some encompassing several smaller merged blazes, in areas north of San Francisco that have consumed nearly 214,000 acres (86,000 hectares) over seven days, or roughly 334 square miles (865 sq km) – an area larger than New York City.
The 40 confirmed fatalities, including 22 in Sonoma County, already make it the deadliest fire event in California history.
Some 100,000 people have been forced from their homes, including 3,000 evacuated on Saturday from the city of Santa Rosa, about 50 miles (80 km) north of San Francisco.
“This is truly one of the greatest tragedies that California has ever faced. The devastation is just unbelievable. It is a horror that no one could have imagined,” California Governor Jerry Brown said on a visit to a devastated Santa Rosa.
The fires have damaged or destroyed about 5,700 structures, reducing homes and businesses to ash. The fires’ death toll surpassed the 29 deaths from the Griffith Park fire of 1933 in Los Angeles.