Oct. 11 (UPI) — Firefighters barely contained wildfires on several fronts in Northern California and braced Wednesday for a shift in winds that will intensify.
The death toll was 17, including 11 people in the Tubbs Fire, making it the sixth deadliest fire in California history. In all, 22 fires that have burned 170,000 acres, according a Wednesday morning update by Cal Fire.
Official estimate that at least 3,500 homes and commercial structures have been destroyed by the fast-moving wildfires.
In Sonoma County, 670 people were reported missing and 110 people have been found safe, Sheriff Rob Giordano said.
Cellphone service has been spotty because of broken towers, the sheriff said.
Because of gusty winds and low humidity starting Wednesday, Red Flag Warnings have been issued for much of Northern California.
“While these winds may hamper the efforts of firefighters, they will also increase the risk for new wildfires,” Cal Fire said in a release.
The largest blaze, the Atlas Fire in Napa and Solano counties, had spread to 42,349 acres and was only 2 percent contained.
In Redwood Valley in Mendocino County, the fire was 5 percent contained over 29,500 acres.
The Tubbs Fire in Sonoma and Napa counties had spread to 28,000 and was 3 percent contained. A total of 16,000 structures were threatened.
New evacuations were ordered Tuesday night in Sonoma Valley and the Geyserville area, where residents were urged to leave.
“People were in bed, there was no time; some of the folks were sleeping at home in bed and had no idea because there was minutes — seconds warning,” Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott said in a news conference.
“This is just pure devastation.”
The bodies of Charles Rippey, 100, and his wife, Sara Rippey, 98, were discovered Sunday in the ashes of their home in Napa County.
They celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary on March 20, according to the Napa Valley Register.
“The caregiver called me and said that there was fire everywhere,” their son, Chuck Rippey, told KNTV-TV on Tuesday. “I said just get those guys out on the street, and before she knew it, the roof was caving in and all that, so it was very fast. Very fast.”
All schools in Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley have been canceled for the rest of the week, including classes at Sonoma Valley University.
The only fires that have been 100 percent contained so far are the Jones Lake Fire and Blue Fire