At least 10 dead, 1,500 structures lost in Northern California firestorm, among worst in state’s history
Widespread destruction at Hidden Valley
At least 10 people have died and at least 1,500 homes, businesses and other structures have been destroyed as more than 14 fires ravaged eight counties throughout Northern California on Monday, authorities said.
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office reported seven fire-related deaths late Monday. In addition, two died because of the Atlas fire in Napa County, said a CalFire spokesperson. One person died as result of the Redwood Valley fire in Mendocino County.
In Sonoma County, the dead were found “in the hot spots” of the fire, an official said.
“We are a resilient county; we will come back from this,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane. “But right now we need to grieve.”
An inmate firefighter monitors flames as a house burns in the Napa wine region.(Josh Edelson / AFP/Getty Images)
Flames ravage a home in the Napa wine region in California.(Josh Edelson / AFP/Getty Images)
A firefighter walks near a pool as a neighboring home burns in the Napa wine region.(Josh Edelson / AFP/Getty Images)
Firefighters douse flames as a home burns in the Napa wine region, as multiple wind-driven fires whip through the region.(Josh Edelson / AFP/Getty Images)
A Cazadero firefighter struggles to protect a home from catching fire in Coffey Park in Santa Rosa, Calif.(Kent Porter / The Press Democrat)
Louis Reavis views the burned remains of his classic Oldsmobile at his home in Napa.(Josh Edelson / AFP/Getty Images)
A tent structure built for the 2017 Safeway Open burns in Napa on Monday.(Josh Edelson / AFP/Getty Images)
The Estancia Apartment Homes on Old Redwood Hwy. were completely destroyed in Santa Rosa.(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
A resident rushes to save his home as a wildfire moves through Glen Ellen, Calif. Tens of thousands of acres and dozens of homes and businesses have burned in wildfires in Napa and Sonoma counties.(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)
A Fountaingrove Village man surveys the rubble of his home in Santa Rosa.(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Downed power poles and lines block a street in Hidden Valley.(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times )
A fcar burns in the driveway of a destroyed home in Fountaingrove Village.(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
A wheelchair left abandoned at the evacuated Villa Capri assisted living facility on Fountaingrove Parkway in Santa Rosa.(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times )
A resident rushes to save his home as fire moves through the area in Glen Ellen, California.(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)
A San Jose firefighter keep flames down at a home in Hidden Valley.(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
A Fountaingrove Village couple takes in the ruins of their home after fire ripped through the neighborhood.(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
A home destroyed in the fast moving wildfire that ripped through Glen Ellen.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
A swimming pool reflects the damage caused by the wildfires that moved through neighborhoods near Glen Ellen.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Benicia Police Officer Alejandro Maravilla, left, offers resident Gwen Adkins, 84, a soda while patrolling in the Coffey Park neighborhood of Santa Rosa.(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
An aerial view of Journey End’s Mobile home park, along the 101 freeway, destroyed by wildfire in Santa Rosa.(Los Angeles Times )
Spencer Blackwell, left, and Danielle Tate find Tate’s father’s gun collection, melted and burned, inside a gun safe at her father’s home in the Coffey Park neighborhood of Santa Rosa.(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times )
An American flag is draped on a burned pickup truck on Camino del Prado in the Coffey Park neighborhood in Santa Rosa.(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times )
Scorched wine barrels at the Paradise Ridge Winery in Santa Rosa after the wildfire burned through.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Fire lights up the night sky framed by a vineyard near Kenwood.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Chloe Hoskins, 7, wearing a bandanna to protect herself from the smoke and ash, checks on a neighbor’s burned-out property with her father in the Coffey Park neighborhood in Santa Rosa.(Los Angeles Times )
Oakland police officers knock on doors as residents of the Rancho de Calistoga mobile home park are told to evacuate in Calistoga.(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
An aerial view of the Coffey Park neighborhood detroyed by wildfire in Santa Rosa.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times )
Contra Costa paramedics help Bill Parras, 96, evacuate his home in Calistoga.(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times )
CHP officers study neighborhood maps before going door to door to tell Sonoma residents to voluntarily evacuate ahead of the wildfire.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
A home perched on top of a hill sits in the foreground of a fire moving up on Shiloh Ridge near Santa Rosa.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times )
Scorched grapes and vines along the edge of Storybook Mountain Vineyards in Calistoga.(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
John and Jan Pascoe survived the firestorm by running out of their home and into their neighbors’ swimming pool in Santa Rosa.(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Hundreds of burned wine bottles at the destroyed Helena View Johnston Vineyards near Calistoga.(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
A Contra Costa County firefighter breaks a wall with an ax as his crew battles flames inside a home along Highway 29 north of Calistoga on Oct. 12.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Atascadero Firefighters try to control flames burning inside a home along Highway 29 in Calistoga on Oct. 12.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Contra Costa firefighters work to put out flames burning inside a home along Highway 29 north of Calistoga on Oct. 12.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Search teams sift through the debris of mobile homes at the Journey’s End Mobile Home Park in Santa Rosa.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times )
A worker pulls out a firearm from the burned wreckage as search team members look through the debris at the Journey’s End Mobile Home Park in Santa Rosa.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Search team members sift through debris at the Journey’s End Mobile Home Park in Santa Rosa.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey surveys the damage to the Coffey Park neighborhood.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times )
Melted metal is seen on a car in the shadow of a destroyed home in Napa.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Lola Cornish, 50, and her daughter Kat Corazza, 18, look over recovered family jewels that survived the fire at Cornish’s grandfather’s home in Napa.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Some residents were allowed to return to their properties Friday in a neighborhood in Napa that was ravaged by the Atlas fire.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
A helicopter prepares to drop water on a fire that threatens the Oakmont community along Highway 12 in Santa Rosa.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
A helicopter drops water on a fire that threatens the Ledson Winery and Historic Castle Vineyards in Kenwood on Friday.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Manuel Mendoza sorts through donated clothing at the Bridge Church in Santa Rosa on Sunday.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Jean Schettler hugs Father Moses Brown after Mass at St. Rose Church on Sunday. Schettler’s daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren, after losing their house in the fires, have moved into the Santa Rosa home of Jean and Jim Schettler.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Gianna Gathman, 18, hugs her grandfather Jim Schettler during Mass at St. Rose Church in Santa Rosa on Sunday. Gathman’s family lost their home in the Fountaingrove neighborhood to the fire. They are now living with the Schettlers.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Kimberly Flinn holds onto the only item that wasn’t lost in a fire that destroyed her home in the Mark West Springs area in Santa Rosa. Flynn recovered a ceramic white butterfly that she had made in memory of a boy she used to babysit and was killed in a hit and run accident.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Gerry Miller, 81, tells San Francisco Police Department Officer Gary Loo how grateful she is to find her home still standing. Residents were allowed to return to their homes in the Mark West Springs area in Santa Rosa Sunday night.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Denise Finitz, 61, thanks Torrance Fire Department firefighters Keith Picket, right, and Capt. Mike Salcido on Oct. 16 after they helped her find her mother’s wedding ring in the ashes of her home, destroyed by wildfires on Carriage Lane in Wikiup.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
A search and rescue crew member gives a cadaver dog some water during the hunt for a possible fire victim in the Mark West Springs area of Santa Rosa on Oct. 15.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Burned cars like this vintage Volkswagen litter the landscape in Coffey Park. The neighborhood was completely destroyed by the Tubbs fire 11 days ago, with many residents fleeing in haste as their homes were enveloped in flames.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
A giraffe framed in the smoke filled air at the Safari West preserve.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
A Watusi bull looks out through the haze of the recent Tubbs fire at the Safari West preserve.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Peter Lang, 77, owner of the Safari West preserve, stands between a pair of white rhinos against a backdrop of charred hillside in Santa Rosa.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Mark Sharp, a resident of Coffey Park, sifts through the remains of his charred home in search of his wife’s wedding band.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Flowers were left on the mailbox of Roy Howard Bowman, 87, and his wife, Irma Elsie Bowman, 88 who died at their Fisher Lake Drive home from the Redwood Valley fire.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Dee Pallesen, left, and her daughter Emily Learn console each as they look over Pallesen’s home, destroyed by the Redwood Valley fire.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Jason Miller plants an American flag on the charred remains of his house as residents of Coffey Park return home.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Burned vehicles litter the landscape in Coffey Park. The neighborhood was completely destroyed by the Tubbs fire 11 days ago, with many residents fleeing in haste as their homes were enveloped in flames.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
A pickup truck rests beside a row of charred trees in the Coffey Park neighborhood of Santa Rosa.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
The vast devastation over just a few hours made this firestorm one of the worst in California history, with Gov. Jerry Brown declaring a state of emergency. Officials said the fires in Northern California have scorched 73,000 acres.
Local hospitals were treating those injured while others are unaccounted for, officials said. Additional fatalities were possible as search efforts continued.
One of the raging fires had Santa Rosa under siege Monday morning, with a large swath of the city north of downtown under an evacuation order.
The area of Fountaingrove appeared to be particularly hard hit, with photos showing numerous homes on fire. The Fountaingrove Inn, a Hilton hotel and a high school also burned. Officials said homes were also lost in the community of Kenwood and at a mobile home park off the 101 Freeway.
Coffey Park, a large Santa Rosa subdivision of dozens of homes, was burned to the ground.
“It’s fair to say it’s been destroyed,” Cal Fire director Ken Pimlott said of Santa Rosa’s Fountaingrove neighborhood.
“Late last night starting around 10 o’clock you had 50 to 60 mph winds that surfaced — really across the whole northern half of the state,” he said. “Every spark is going to ignite.”
Northern California has seen its share of horrific wildfires — the state’s second-deadliest is the October 1991 Tunnel fire in the Oakland Hills, in which 25 people died. The Tunnel also ranks as the most destructive, charring 2,900 buildings.
But the combination of high winds, dried-up vegetation and low humidity driving flames into neighborhoods is more typical of Southern California.
“This is exactly what you would expect in the Southern California fall fire season,” Pimlott said.
Despite a wet winter, he said vegetation still hasn’t recovered from California’s punishing drought, and at the end of the summer dry season, was ready to burn.
Firefighters are hopeful the winds will calm Monday afternoon. But red flag weather conditions will persist into Tuesday.
The city of Santa Rosa imposed a curfew starting at 6:45 p.m. Monday until sunrise Tuesday to prevent looting of empty homes in the evacuation zone, said acting Santa Rosa police chief Craig Schwartz.
“We have had a number of reports in the evacuation zone and the fire zone of people driving around and suspicious behavior,” Schwartz said.
While many evacuation centers were set up, some were filled to capacity due to the large number of people fleeing.
The Tubbs fire near Santa Rosa has burned more than 35,000 acres as of 6:40 a.m., Napa County Supervisor Diane Dillon said during a televised news conference Monday morning. Officials said the other large fire in Napa County — Atlas Peak — has reached 25,000 acres.
Schools throughout the Napa and Sonoma valleys were closed for the day, and cellphone service has been affected in Napa County, where residents and businesses are experiencing power outages and trees have been knocked down by the wind, officials said.
More than 50 structures, including homes and barns, have burned in the Atlas Peak fire alone, Napa County Fire Chief Barry Biermann said during the news conference.
Residents described running from the approaching flames early in the morning.
Late Sunday night, Ken Moholt-Siebert noticed the smell of the smoke from his Santa Rosa vineyard just off Highway 101.
It was not until midnight that he spotted the flames: a small red glow growing a couple of ridges to the east, off Fountaingrove Parkway.
He ran up the hill on his property to turn on a water pump to protect the ranch his family has been raising sheep and growing grapes on for four generations.
Before the pump could get the water fully flowing, a small ember from the Tubbs fire landed nearby. With the wind picking up, the ember sparked a spot fire about 50 feet in diameter. Then it was 100 feet in diameter.
“There was no wind, then there would be a rush of wind and it would stop. Then there would be another gust from a different direction,” Moholt-Siebert, 51, said. “The flames wrapped around us.”
He ran for cover.
“I was just being pelted with all this smoke and embers,” he said. “It was just really fast.”
Moholt-Siebert retreated through a 150-year-old redwood barn on his property — where his son’s wedding reception had been held in June. He jumped a fence back toward his house and fell to the ground to catch gulps of less smoke-contaminated air before reaching his home.
As he fled with his wife Melissa in their Ford sedans, the flames reached their vineyard full of Pinot Noir grapes and crept toward a 200-year-old oak tree on the property — the namesake for the family winery, Ancient Oak Cellars.
As he drove through falling embers and smoke he thought about what he left behind. The sheep on his ranch, he thought, would be safe since they were on shortly cut wet grass. He left behind family mementos and furniture from his grandparents.
The property was dotted with old valley and black oak as well as some California ash trees.
“That is probably all gone,” Moholt-Siebert said. “I have a feeling there is not going to be much left.”
Smoke from the fires drifted into the Bay Area, into San Francisco and as far south as San Jose.
“The smell of smoke is everywhere throughout the county,” Napa County spokeswoman Kristi Jourdan said.
In Santa Rosa, Kaiser Permanente Hospital and Sutter Hospital were evacuated.
“We have safely evacuated the Santa Rosa medical center due to fires burning in the area. Many patients were transported to Kaiser Permanente in San Rafael and other local hospitals,” Kaiser spokeswoman Jenny Mack said in an email. “All scheduled appointments and surgeries have been canceled for the day in Santa Rosa and the Napa medical offices.”
The Santa Rosa fire began around 10 p.m. The cause of the fires is still under investigation.
Upward of 300 firefighters are battling the blazes in Napa County, she said. There are three evacuation centers for Napa County residents, though one — the Crosswalk Community Church — is full, she said. The other two are the Calistoga Fairgrounds and at Napa Valley College.
Those who evacuated described a chaotic scene.
Around 2 a.m., the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office ordered evacuations around Kay Drive and Mark West Station Road in Windsor. Jen Ancic, 31, fled with her two young sons and boyfriend.
As the family drove north on U.S. Highway 101, Ancic said she could see buildings and trees burning.
“The whole town was on fire,” she said. “It was crazy.”
A Santa Rosa native, Ancic said that fires in the mountains are not uncommon, but “nothing like this has happened in Santa Rosa.”
She was devastated to learn from online news reports that Coffey Park, where she’d played as a child and had recently held a recent birthday party for her son, had burned. “There’s nothing left,” Ancic said.
Weather conditions — strong winds and high temperatures — made conditions ripe for a major inferno.
“We also had really gusty winds and really warm temperatures,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Mehle. “This time of year it does happen quite a bit. For the San Francisco Bay Area, our summer is late September to early October; that’s when we have our warmest and driest conditions.”
The destructiveness of the fires shocked officials. The worst fire in recent California history was the Cedar blaze in San Diego County in 2003, which destroyed more than 2,800 homes. The 2007 Witch fire, also in San Diego County, destroyed more than 1,600. Both of those fires occurred in October.
“This time of year is when historically the state’s largest, most damaging and most deadly fires have occurred,” Upton said. “Critical fire conditions fanned by high winds” act as “a fuse for sparks,” she said.
A key reason why the fires burning through Napa and Sonoma counties became so devastating was that the ignitions happened at the worst possible moment: extremely dry conditions combined with so-called Diablo winds that fanned flames on the ridgetops with gusts as high as 70 mph.
It’s similar to the conditions that caused one of the most destructive blazes in Northern California history, the October 1991 firestorm that struck the Oakland and Berkeley hills that killed 25 people and destroyed more than 3,300 single-family homes.
The wine country fires so far haven’t approached that level of catastrophe, with officials reporting at least 1,500 structures lost, in part because the area burned isn’t as densely populated as the area that was hit hard in 1991.
Staffers at Safari West, a wildlife preserve in Santa Rosa, fled the property Sunday night, but some employees returned Monday afternoon to find the fire “basically jumped over” the preserve Sunday night.
“There are still a lot of fires all around so the situation is very dynamic at the moment,” Safari West executive director Keo Hornbostel wrote in an email.
The 400-acre property is known for its rhinos, giraffes, zebras and other animals. Guests also can stay in tents on site.
Marie Martinez, conservation and outreach manager at Safari West, said that staff and guests left the facility Sunday night, with staffers taking some birds and a tortoise with them.Erin Harrison, director of marketing and communications at Oakland Zoo, said the zoo is willing to coordinate evacuation of the Safari West animals if needed.
Willon reported from Santa Rosa, St. John from Napa.
Los Angeles Times staff writers Nina Agrawal in Santa Rosa, Makeda Easter, Rong-Gong Lin II, Joy Resmovits, Javier Panzar, Dakota Smith, Bettina Boxall and Geoffrey Mohan contributed to this report.
6:50 p.m.: This article was updated with updated acreage numbers.
6:20 p.m.: This article was updated with information about a curfew in Santa Rosa and the Safari West wildlife preserve.
5:40 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details about the deaths and a quote from a Sonoma County supervisor.
4:30 p.m.: This article was updated with additional deaths.
3:40 p.m.: This article was updated with more information about the Santa Rosa fire.
2:20 p.m.: This article was updated with more details from evacuees.
1:10 p.m.: This article was updated with news of the death in Mendocino County.
12:05 p.m.: This article was updated with information about “Diablo winds.”
11:09 a.m.: This article was updated with witness accounts, weather conditions.
10:15 a.m.: This article was updated with more details about the fires and damage.
9:50 a.m.: This article was updated with more details about acreage and areas affected.
9:15 a.m.: This article was updated with Gov. Jerry Brown’s declaration of a state of emergency.
8:25 a.m.: This article was updated throughout with additional details about the fires in Napa, Sonoma and Lake counties.
7:30 a.m.: This article was updated with more details about the size of the fires and information concerning hospital evacuations.
This article was originally published at 6:40 a.m.
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