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Hundreds missing, 23 dead as dry gusts fan California wildfires

Hundreds missing, 23 dead as dry gusts fan California wildfires
From Reuters - October 12, 2017

SONOMA, Calif. (Reuters) - Firefighters struggled to halt the spread of wildfires that have killed at least 23 people in Northern California and dry, gusty winds threatened on Thursday to push flames into the evacuated town of Calistoga.

Nearly two dozen fires spanning eight counties have raged largely unchecked since igniting on Sunday, leaving hundreds of residents unaccounted for.

The National Weather Service warned on Thursday morning of persistent critical fire weather conditions in the area for the next three days, with no rain expected and dry winds from the north with gusts upward of 35 miles per hour (55 kph).

The deadliest of Californias blazes, known as the Tubbs fire, was within 2 miles (3 km) of Calistoga, a community in the world-renowned Napa Valley wine country whose 5,000 residents were told to leave their homes on Wednesday.

Whether the town burns is going to depend on the wind, Calistogas Fire Chief Steve Campbell told Reuters early on Thursday. High winds are predicted but we have not received them yet.

New evacuations also were issued in Sonoma County late on Wednesday for parts of Santa Rosa, the largest city in the wine-producing region, and Geyserville, an unincorporated town of 800 people.

The fires already have charred about 170,000 acres (69,000 hectares) of land and destroyed some 3,500 buildings. Neighborhoods have been reduced to panoramas of ash, charred trees and burned-out cars.

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