Three people were killed as two rapidly growing wildfires tore through Northern California, scorching tens of thousands of acres and forcing the evacuation of nearly 70,000 people from the famed Napa and Sonoma wine country.
Authorities said Monday three people had died in the Zogg fire in Shasta County, which began Sunday and had grown to more than 31,000 acres just over a day later. Thousands were forced to flee in neighboring wine country as two new fires merged with the growing Glass fire, destroying homes and renowned vineyards as dry, windy conditions fanned the flames.
Late Monday night, the Glass fire had tripled in size to more than 36,000 acres. Both that blaze and the Zogg fire were zero percent contained, according to fire officials. The causes of the fires are under investigation.
“Tonight ― and every night ― we’re eternally grateful for the firefighters and first responders that are on the frontlines keeping our state safe,” the state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, wrote on Twitter. “California heroes.”
The extent of the damage is unclear so far, but officials said the Zogg fire had already destroyed 146 structures and was threatening 1,500 more, according to the Los Angeles Times. Newsom added at a press briefing that a “substantial” number of buildings, including wineries, had been damaged by the flames.
The blazes are just the latest threat to a region battered by the coronavirus pandemic and a series of blazes just a month ago that bathed California in smoke, prompting their own round of evacuations and concern. The region is still recovering from a massive spate of wildfires in 2017, including one blaze that killed 22 people.
“Our firefighters have not had much of a break, and these residents have not had much of a break,” Daniel Berlant, the assistant deputy director for Cal Fire, told the Associated Press.
California is in the midst of its worst fire season on record with months to go until it’s over. More than 3.7 million acres have burned so far this year, killing 26 people and destroying more than 7,000 structures.
Officials said late Monday a brief respite in the wind would help firefighters on the ground work to get the new blazes under control, but they warned that thousands of Californians could still face evacuation in the coming days.
“The smoky skies that we’re under are a sign that there’s not a lot of air movement out there moving the smoke around,” Cal Fire Division Chief Ben Nicholls said at a press conference Monday night. “Not good for air quality, and folks outside exercising, but great for us to work on containing this fire and working on putting it out.”
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