‘A serious, critical, catastrophic event’: At least 21 dead as California wildfires spread

THE WASHINGTON POST – CARA STRICKLAND, SCOTT WILSON, BREENA KERR, KRISTINE PHILLIPS

The historically deadly wildfires ravaging Northern California regained momentum Wednesday as winds whipped back up, pushing blazes through parched hills and vineyards and prompting more evacuations from an arc of flames that has killed at least 21 people, destroyed more than 2,000 buildings and battered the region’s renowned wine-growing industry.

Fires advanced overnight toward populated areas in flame-battered Sonoma County, prompting officials to order a fresh round of mandatory evacuations — some of which were announced by deputies “running toward the fire, banging on doors, getting people out of their houses,” said Misti Harris, a Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman.

“It’s rapidly changing, it’s moving quickly, it’s a very fluid situation,” she said. “The fire is growing.”

Nearly two dozen large fires have been burning in the northern part of the state; on Wednesday, Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott said he’s worried that “several of these fires will merge.”

“This is a serious, critical, catastrophic event,” Pimlott said at a news briefing, where he made a grim but expected announcement: The death toll from the fires has increased, from 17 to 21.

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