Wildfires are sweeping through northern California's wine country Wednesday with strong, dry winds expected to pick up later in the day and further fan an inferno that's already left at least 21 people dead and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses.
Mind-numbing Northern California wildfires have taken a tragic toll on the area’s beloved wine country and its surrounding towns, killing at least 15 people and reducing hundreds of homes and businesses to nothing but rubble and ash since starting to rage Sunday night.
News reports are increasingly grim as firefighting crews battled the fast-moving flames for the second full day Tuesday and high winds are predicted in the days ahead.
The fires, impacting Butte, Lake, Napa, Nevada, Mendocino, Sonoma and Yuba counties, are so massive that NASA satellites captured this photo of the swath of fire and smoke.
Here’s a look at how the fires have overwhelmed Northern California this week, by the numbers.
More than 122,000 acres burned
Fire crews were battling at least 17 large fires on Tuesday that have burned 115,000 acres since the weekend. Smoke from some of the bigger fires in Napa and Sonoma counties traveled as far south as San Francisco, about 60 miles away.
And weather conditions weren’t improving to help firefighters who continued working the fires into Tuesday night.
A red flag warning — meaning conditions may result in extreme fire behavior within 24 hours — is in effect for Northern California Wednesday into Thursday for gusty winds and low humidity.
Here’s a map of the area under the warning, according to CalFire.
21 dead in at least four counties
Officials said the fires happened so quickly overnight on Sunday that some people were still in bed with no clue they were coming. At least 21 people have been reported dead in Sonoma, Mendocino, Napa and Yuba counties.
A terrible report came from Napa, California on Tuesday from a family member of an elderly couple who had known each other since grade school who did not survive the fire.
More than 50,000 without power
Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) Company said at noon on Tuesday that 87,000 of its customers were without power, with a majority of them in Sonoma and Napa counties. The utility also reported that some of its electric and gas facilities had been damaged by fire.
On Wednesday morning, 53,000 of those customers were still without power, PG&E said.
Six Northern California PG&E offices were closed on Tuesday due to evacuations or lack of access to power.
20,000 people evacuated from homes
More than 20,000 people have been evacuated from their homes, and emergency alerts were still being shared by officials asking people to evacuate Tuesday afternoon.
Here’s a look at more of the devastation across Northern California from photojournalists capturing images of the fires.
How can you help?
Officials and residents are asking for monetary donations to support relief and recovery efforts. The City of Santa Rosa, one of the worst hit in California this week, set up an official donation website here.
Dozens of gofundme campaigns have been set up for people who have lost their homes and businesses in the fires. They feature numerous families who are now homeless.
The crowd-funding organization has them all listed here.
For more coverage of the fires ravaging Northern California, check out these live updates from The Los Angeles Times.