Wildfires From East and West Threaten Napa Valley

Clay Curtis
September 29, 2020

The new fires erupted on Sunday in the famed Napa-Sonoma wine region in far Northern California's Shasta County, forcing hasty evacuations of neighborhoods.

Under an opaque orange sky and a sweltering heatwave, vineyards were consumed and buildings devastated by the blaze that spread at a "dangerous rate" through 11,000 acres (4,500 hectares) and was zero percent contained, state fire agency Cal Fire said.

"We woke up in the middle of the night and saw flames", Zakin told KGO. More than 3.7 million acres of land have burned across the state in 2020, a record in modern history, causing at least 26 deaths and destroying over 7,000 structures. "I was in my underwear. We're so lucky to be alive".

About 1,500 residents in Napa County were also ordered to evacuate and thousands of others were told to prepare to do so.

Another evacuee told KGO that the fires and evacuations are becoming an unwelcome part of life.

Officials did not say how many homes or people were under the evacuation order due to the blaze. No injuries have been reported, but many homes were burned overnight, as were wineries and inns that the area is known for. Late last week, an analysis of more than 100 studies found that the climate crisis is playing an "unequivocal and pervasive" role in creating conditions for these catastrophic fires in California.

Most of the losses occurred after a frenzy of dry lightning strikes in mid-August ignited a massive outbreak of fires.

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The burned remains of Calistoga Ranch in Napa Valley, Calif., on September 28, 2020.

Last year, the state experienced fewer than 5,500 fires with 157,000 acres burned, but so far, 2020 has been much more devastating - with more than 8,000 fires covering 3.75 million acres, or almost 6,000 square miles.

He characterized the fire as "extremely hard to fight" due to rocky, steep terrain and high winds.

"There is nothing more pressing that the activity in northern California over the next 24-36 hours", Newsom said, calling it an "unprecedented wildfire season". "Those winds will maintain themselves", Newsom said.

The month-old North Complex Fire in Butte County flared up in high winds as well on Sunday, causing evacuation warnings in the Butte mountain towns of Paradise and Magalia and mandatory evacuations of rural residents nearer to Highway 70 and the Feather River Canyon.

During the weekend, the pacific gas and electric utility turned off electricity to targeted areas where the winds raised the potential for arcing or other power equipment damage that could spark new fires. On Sunday, wind drove smoke from the new Napa County fire toward Sonoma and Marin counties, worsening the air quality, said Gerry Diaz, a meteorologist with the national weather service. The company expected to have power restored by Monday evening to all customers.

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