Death toll from California wildfires rises to 21 - KULR8.com | News, Weather & Sports in Billings, Montana

Death toll from California wildfires rises to 21

Posted: Updated:

SONOMA, Calif. (AP) - The Latest on wildfires in California (all times local):

11:50 a.m.

Authorities say some of the most destructive wildfires in California's history have killed 21 people.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Chief Ken Pimlott gave an updated death toll Wednesday, calling the series of wildfires in wine country "a serious, critical, catastrophic event."

He says 8,000 firefighters are focusing on protecting lives and property as they battle the flames chewing through critically dry vegetation.

___

11:15 a.m.

Authorities in Northern California say they have discovered a body at a burned home, bringing the number of people killed by wildfires to 18.

The Yuba County Sheriff's Office said on its Facebook page that deputies found the remains Tuesday after a resident asked for a welfare check on a family friend who was missing.

The office says the body was found in the Loma Rica area, where another body was found earlier.

People have also died in Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties.

The fires north of San Francisco are among the deadliest in California history.

The blazes have also left at least 180 people injured and have destroyed more than 3,500 homes and businesses.

___

10:35 a.m.

Sonoma County officials say 670 people are still listed as missing from fires in California wine country.

But Sheriff Robert Giordano said Wednesday that many of those people may have been found but have not yet updated a registry of missing people.

Desperate family members and friends are turning to social media with pleas for help finding loved ones missing from the 22 fires in Northern California.

It's unclear if some of those people are actually OK.

Authorities pleaded with previously missing people to mark themselves as safe on the registry and alert authorities.

Napa County Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht says many people are staying with somebody else and haven't checked in.

___

9:30 a.m.

A California fire official says at least 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed by wildfires burning in Northern California wine country.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant says fire activity increased significantly overnight, destroying more buildings and leading to new mandatory evacuations in several areas.

Berlant said Wednesday that 22 wildfires are burning in Northern California, up from 17 on Tuesday.

Officials in Napa County say almost half of the population of Calistoga, a town of 5,000 people, has been ordered to evacuate. New evacuation orders are also in place for Green Valley in Solano County.

After a day of cooler weather and calmer winds, officials say low moisture and dangerous gusty winds will return to the region Wednesday afternoon, complicating firefighters' efforts.

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8:10 a.m.

The return of cooler weather and moist ocean air is helping an army of firefighters gain ground against a wildfire that has scorched more than a dozen square miles in Southern California.

Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi says the fire has laid down significantly Wednesday due to the marine layer and the work of more than 1,600 firefighters and a fleet of aircraft.

Concialdi says the blaze is 45 percent surrounded and full containment is expected by Saturday, but commanders are holding onto resources because of forecasts for another round of gusty winds and low humidity levels starting Thursday night.

Incomplete damage assessments have now tallied 15 structures destroyed and 12 damaged, including homes and outbuildings.

All evacuations have been lifted except for certain homes in the city of Orange.

The fire erupted Monday about 45 miles southeast of Los Angeles as warm, dry Santa Ana winds swept the region. The cause remains under investigation.

___

6:45 a.m.

Animals from the Orange County Zoo are among evacuees returning home as crews get a handle on a Southern California wildfire that destroyed 14 buildings and damaged 22 others.

Evacuation orders were lifted Tuesday for thousands of people in Anaheim, Orange and Tustin. And more than 100 animals - including small birds, mammals and reptiles - were returned to the zoo within Irvine Regional Park, where flames roared on Monday.

Zoo officials tell the Orange County Register (http://bit.ly/2gcnFiK) that the remaining animals including bears and mountain lions will be brought back in the coming days.

The newspaper says the zoo had undergone an emergency drill a week before the fire, which helped the evacuation run as smoothly as possible.

Cooler, more humid air is helping firefighters tame that blaze in northern Orange County.

___

6:30 a.m.

A wildfire tearing through California's wine country continues to expand unabated, prompting authorities to order more evacuations.

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday it ordered mandatory evacuations for several areas of Sonoma Valley after a blaze grew to 44 square miles (113 square kilometers).

After a day of cooler weather and calmer winds, officials say dangerous gusty winds will return to the region Wednesday afternoon, complicating firefighters' efforts.

The blaze in Sonoma County is one of a series of fires that flared up north of San Francisco on Sunday night and continue to burn with little to no containment.  Seventeen people have died in the blazes, 11 of them in Sonoma County.

The fires have also left at least 180 people injured and have destroyed more than 2,000 homes and businesses.

___

12:00 a.m.

Jose Garnica worked for more than two decades to build up his dream home that was reduced to ashes in a matter of minutes by the deadly firestorm striking Northern California.

Garnica's house was among more than 2,000 homes and business destroyed by the fires that have also killed 17 people.

He moved to the U.S. from Mexico more than 20 years ago, and after saving money from his steady job with a garbage company he fixed up his Santa Rosa house with new flooring and stainless steel appliances.

All of it burned early Monday when the fires broke out. But Garnica says he's still better off than when he came to America.

The fires have scorched large sections of the state's wine country.

(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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