Charred ruins and sooty skies as California wildfires kill 31

From Reuters - October 13, 2017

SONOMA, Calif. (Reuters) - Firefighters faced more dry, windy conditions on Friday that could whip up wildfires in Northern California that have killed at least 31 people and left hundreds missing in the heart of wine country.

The most lethal wildfires in Californias history have killed people while they slept in their beds and prompted authorities to order thousands of residents from their homes, warning anyone deciding to stay: You are on your own.

The toll from the more than 20 fires raging across eight counties could climb, with more than 400 people in Sonoma County alone still listed as missing.

Winds of up to 60 mph (100 kph) and humidity of just 10 percent will create critical fire weather conditions and contribute to extreme fire behavior on Friday afternoon and into Saturday, the National Weather Service said.

A force of 8,000 firefighters was working to reinforce and extend buffer lines across the region where the flames have scorched more than 190,000 acres (77,000 hectares), an area nearly the size of New York City.

With 3,500 homes and businesses incinerated, the so-called North Bay fires have reduced entire neighborhoods in the city of Santa Rosa to smoldering ruins dotted with charred trees and burned-out cars.

The cause was under investigation, but officials said power lines toppled by gale-force winds on Sunday may be to blame.

The Napa Valley town of Calistoga faced one of the biggest threats, and its 5,000-plus residents were ordered to leave their homes as winds picked up and fire crept closer.

Calistoga Mayor Chris Canning said anyone refusing to heed the mandatory evacuation would be left to fend for themselves if fire approached, warning on Thursday: You are on your own.



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