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Ferocious, fast-moving wildfire ravages Northern California

Sheetal Sukhija - Wednesday 11th October, 2017

CALIFORNIA, U.S. - With over a dozen fires ravaging Northern California, the ferocious wildfire, fanned by powerful winds has so far killed 11 people and over 100 people remain missing.

Authorities said that the fire has left parts of California destructed with over 1,500 structures suffering massive damage.

Fire officials said on Tuesday that over 20,000 people were in the path of the fast-moving infernos and had fled their homes. 

Further, Scott McLean, deputy chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said in a statement on Tuesday that increased resources were headed to the region to battle the wildfires.

McLean added, “Hopefully we'll start seeing some turnaround throughout the course of today and into tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Jerry Brown had declared an emergency in the affected counties, which include Napa and Sonoma.

The Department of Homeland Security also announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had agreed to the state's request for federal funds to help the fires.

So far, authorities have said that the 15 wildfires have collectively become among the deadliest wildfires in California’s history.

Officials in Sonoma County said they had received more than 100 phone calls to its missing persons hotline, but pointed out some could be duplicated.

In a statement, Sheriff Rob Giordano of Sonoma County said seven people had been killed there in fire-related incidents — adding that "that number's going to change."

In Santa Rosa meanwhile, wildfires engulfed a hotel and a trailer park in the city, sending smoke spewing as far south as San Francisco.

Reassuring the residents in the area, Capt. Craig Schwartz, acting chief of the Santa Rosa police, said evacuation efforts were continuing. 

Adding that, “Officers were going in and reporting that they were having a hard time getting out.”

Cal Fire also confirmed that one person had been killed in Mendocino County and Yuba County; and two in Napa County.

Further, Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott said that many other people had been injured and that an undetermined number were missing.

Mark Ghilarducci, director of the state Office of Emergency Services said that other deaths were likely across the region. 

He said that since the fires were moving so rapidly authorities were "still trying to get our hands around" the full extent of the damage and casualties.

In a warning, the National Weather Service said that very low relative humidity, along with strong and gusty winds, would continue to pose a critical threat through Tuesday. 

It added that winds are expected to weaken later in the day and on Wednesday, with higher humidity spreading slowly inland.

Meanwhile, as of Tuesday morning, the Pacific Gas & Electric said that more than 94,000 customers were without power - with most of them being in the North Bay Division and Sonoma area. 

It said that gas service was shut off to 30,000 customers. 

Further, the California Highway Patrol said it had rescued 44 people by helicopter.

So far, the total spread of the fires is more than 25 across the northern half of California to about 73,000 acres.

According to authorities, preliminary damage assessments would be continued as soon as conditions permit access and investigators were still trying to determine the origin of the blazes.

Cal Fire Deputy Chief Bret Gouvea, commander of the unified response team has described it as a simultaneous eruption of "large fires that were all wind driven, with winds up to 50 miles per hour, in seven counties."

He said, “Sometimes we get away with these wind events, and other times we get caught.”

Apart from Northern California, the Canyon Fire 2 wildfire continued to scorch rugged terrain in Anaheim Hills in Orange County, about 40 miles southeast of Los Angeles. 

By early Tuesday, fire officials said that over 7,500 acres were burned and at least 24 structures were destroyed with another 5,000 threatened.

Evacuation shelters were set up in nearby communities, including in Anaheim.

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