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My Firsthand Account of the Devastating Northern California Fires in My Hometown

12 October 2017

Steady winds with gusts up to 45 miles per hour (72 kph) with almost non-existent humidity are expected to descend on the areas north of San Francisco where at least 23 people have died and at least 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed.

Drone video from after daylight Monday morning show buildings still smoldering and fire crews attempting to put out several fires in Santa Rosa.

Maj. Gen. David Baldwin of the California National Guard says 242 soldiers and airmen are assisting in responding to the fires in the two counties.

Calmer winds and higher humidity aided fire-suppression efforts Tuesday, but the winds are expected to turn gusty and swing 180 degrees on Wednesday, blowing from the northwest and challenging the containment lines that have been secured along the long southern flanks of the fires, said Neil Lareau of San Jose State University's Department of Meteorology and Climate Science. "Hopefully, the answer is yes". Many people were asleep when the fire started.

Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for northern California's wine-making Napa, Sonoma, and Yuba counties as the blazes raged unchecked and engulfed the region in thick, billowing smoke that drifted into San Francisco and Oakland.

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A sobbing Rachael Ingram searched shelters and called hospitals to try to find her friend Mike Grabow, whose home in Santa Rosa was destroyed.

"I want to see my house, see if anything's left", Rodriguez said, gesturing at officers at one roadblock.

Wildfires fanned by strong winds have ripped through Californian wine country, killing at least 10 people, forcing some 20,000 residents to flee and destroying 1,500 homes and businesses.

"We're not out of the woods and we're not going to be out of the woods for a great number of days to come", Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), told a news conference.

"We have access to every available asset across the country", Pimlott said, referring to the 73 helicopters, more than 30 air tankers, 550 fire engines and close to 8,000 firefighters in some form of deployment, as well as additional aid coming from outside of the state.

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"We're hearing the worst and expecting the best", she said. "These fires are changing by the minute in many areas".

"These embers can twist and turn and wind up in other areas that might not be in the direction of the winds", Garcia said.

Santa Rosa police on Tuesday issued an urgent evacuation warning for anyone remaining in the Oakmont neighborhood.

Grabow's name was among dozens written on a dry erase board at the Finley Community Center in Santa Rosa, which the Red Cross had turned into an evacuation center with dormitories, cold showers and three meals a day. The North Bay is under a critical fire alert, the agency says.

"I don't know, man, the wrath of God is not very happy", Branch said. "We've had hurricanes three weeks in a row, an natural disaster in Mexico City, and then this fire". In Santa Rosa, which saw neighborhoods and swaths of land overrun by fire, a curfew remains in effect from 6:45 7:15 a.m.

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As he surveyed the damage, he marveled how some of his neighbors' homes survived.

My Firsthand Account of the Devastating Northern California Fires in My Hometown