21 Dead, Thousands of Structures Destroyed as California Wildfires Rage

SANTA ROSA, Calif. — The wildfires tearing through California wine country flared anew Wednesday, growing in size and number as authorities issued new evacuation orders and announced that hundreds more homes and businesses had been lost. The death toll climbed to 21 and was expected to rise higher still. At least 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed since the fires started Sunday, making them the third deadliest and most destructive blazes in state history. "We have had big fires in the past. This is one of the biggest, most serious, and it's not over," Gov. Jerry Brown said at a news conference, alongside the state's top emergency officials, who said that 8,000 firefighters and other personnel were battling the blazes and more resources were pouring in from Oregon, Nevada, Washington and Arizona. Nearly three days after the flames ignited, firefighters were still unable to gain control of the blazes. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant said 22 wildfires were burning, up from 17 on Tuesday. "Make no mistake, this is a serious, critical, catastrophic event," said Ken Pimlott, chief of the department. He said the fires have burned through a staggering 265 square miles of urban and rural areas. The return of high winds and low humidity ignited ground that was parched from years of drought. "We are literally looking at explosive vegetation," he said. "It is very dynamic. These fires are changing by the minute in many areas."  Continue reading...

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