ALAMEDA, CA. – More evacuations were ordered in Northern California on Thursday as weary residents prepared for the return of strong winds that could ignite flames in the wine country in the region.
The evacuations in the Napa Valley came when forecasters issued a red flag warning, the highest warning of forest fire danger, in large parts of Northern, Central and Southern California. The signal took effect on Thursday afternoon and is expected to remain in force until Friday.
Twenty-four thousand buildings in Napa and Sonoma counties, north of San Francisco, were threatened by a glass fire that broke out on Sunday night in the Napa Valley and burned nearly 57,000 acres on Thursday afternoon, Cal Fire spokesman Jonathan Cox told reporters.
About 70,000 people were on evacuation orders, the NBC Bay Area reported. There were no reports of deaths or injuries, although two firefighters were forced to take refuge in fire shelters while battling hell on Sunday.
Speaking Thursday at a burned-out elementary school in Napa County, Gov. Gavin Newsum told reporters the scene was familiar. Many in the region north of San Francisco have evacuated their homes several times since 2017, when Tubbs’ deadly fire tore apart Sonoma and Napa counties, killing 22 and destroying thousands of buildings.
They are “torn by forest fires at first glance every year,” he said, adding that the flames are like a “drumbeat when people are exhausted, worried and worried about their fate and future, not just their safety.”
“It is clear that we have work to do,” he added.
He urged residents to heed evacuation orders, saying red flag weather is likely to turn the vast majority of embers blown by strong winds into likely sources of ignition.
Meanwhile, air quality around much of the San Francisco Bay Area has deteriorated as cloudy, smoky fires have settled in much of the region. On Thursday, officials extended the dangerous air warning to Tuesday, increasing the number of “reserve air warnings” issued this year to 41, a record.
There are more than 17,000 firefighters battling more than 20 major wildfires in California. Since mid-August, when thousands of lightning strikes ignited several of the state’s largest fires, 3.6 million acres have burned across the state, much of Northern California, which recorded one of its driest winters on record. .
The length of the restraining lines dug around state fires is so massive that it can stretch from San Diego to New York, Cal Fire Director Tom Porter said on Thursday.
“We will probably reach the 4 million acre mark in the next day or two,” he said.
Some government officials, including Gov. Gavin Newsum, have linked the unprecedented season of forest fires this year to climate change.
“Climate change is not something that needs to be addressed in the distant future. The climate crisis is here,” the governor tweeted on Wednesday.
Earlier this month, Newsom said that since 1980, the average temperature in the state has risen from about 71 degrees to about 74 degrees from June to September.
Other experts point to the accumulation of dry vegetation in California’s vast forest land – more than half of which is owned by the federal government – which has provided enough fuel for uncontrolled megafires.
Hell took the lives of 30 people this year, with the most recent death being a man who was badly burned by the Zogg fire in Shasta County.
Shasta County Sheriff Eric Magrini said on Wednesday that the man was transported to hospital but later died of his injuries.
Four people, including the man, were killed in the Zogg fire, which burned more than 55,000 acres and destroyed nearly 150 structures since early Sunday. As of Thursday afternoon, it contains 26%.
Magrini’s office identified one of Thursday’s victims as Karin King, 79, of Igo, a small town 130 miles south of Oregon. Her body was found on Zogg Mine Road, the street Cal Fire lists as the location of the fire.
Tim Stello reports from California. Minyvonne Burke reported from New York.