A swarm of fires supercharged by powerful winds ripped through Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties Monday, killing at least 11 people, injuring dozens of others, destroying more than 1,500 homes and businesses, and turning prominent wineries to ash.
Starting in the middle of the night, the fires hopscotched across neighborhoods, raced across fields and jumped freeways. Wind gusts up to 70 mph pushed walls of flames nearly 100 feet high, throwing embers ahead like hot fingers into strip malls and subdivisions. Many people who fled the surge had enough time to grab car keys, perhaps a pet, but not much more.
The fires occurred in a year of record-setting heat and persistent drought. They followed extreme weather events elsewhere in the U.S., including the hurricanes that ravaged Houston, Puerto Rico and parts of Florida.
Residents in the areas hardest hit by the fires described fleeing for their lives in the middle of the night, in cars or on foot, amid a disaster that stood as another stark reminder of the peril of wildfires in California at the end of the long dry season.
“It’s not uncommon to have multiple fires burning,” Pimlott said. “But I can certainly tell you it’s becoming more of the norm now to have multiple large, damaging fires now like we’re seeing today. These are the conditions we continue to talk about that California is experiencing.”