More than a dozen fast-moving wildfires tearing through through California’s wine country have killed at least 10 people, destroying hundreds of homes, authorities said Monday.
Fanned by winds of over 50 miles (80 kilometers) an hour, the blazes have forced more than 20,000 people to evacuate in the country’s heaviest populated state since they began Sunday night.
California’s fire service said about 73,000 acres (30,000 hectares) have been ravaged by the major infernos.
“The Sheriff’s Office confirms seven fire-related deaths from the Sonoma Co. fires. Our condolences to their friends and families,” tweeted the sheriff of Sonoma County in the state’s north. The previous toll had stood at three.
At least 1,500 buildings were destroyed as the state declared an emergency in three counties ravaged by intense fires, mostly in its famous wine-producing regions.
Fourteen major fires are burning in total. Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties are covered by Governor Jerry Brown’s order. The counties are north of San Francisco Bay.
An AFP correspondent in the Santa Rosa area witnessed multiple explosions from gas lines or gas tanks, in addition to charred out homes and a winery. Fire trucks were out in force in that area, he said.
About 410 firefighters are working on blazes in Mendocino, a sheriff’s spokesman in that county told the CBS news network, adding that multiple fatalities were expected.