UPDATE US - Northern California wildfires

13 Oct 2017

Firefighters continue to battle deadly wildfires in northern California. As of October 12, at least 3,500 structures - including commercial and residential buildings - have been destroyed in the northern portion of the state. Approximately 25,000 residents have heeded evacuation orders, primarily in Sonoma and Napa counties. California Governor Jerry Brown requested, and was granted, a major disaster declaration; federal resources will supplement local and state agencies in firefighting efforts. 

As of October 12, the wildfires have killed at least 29 people, with the majority of the fatalities occurring in Sonoma County. The death toll is expected to rise in the coming days as crews conduct search and rescue operations in areas destroyed by the wildfires. The Sonoma County Sheriff's office has received approximately 1,000 missing person reports; police have been able to locate about 600 of the missing individuals. A majority of the reports are likely due to telecommunication outages in the North Bay area; cell service is limited, and utility outages may be hampering communications between friends and family members. 

Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) reports that about 49,000 customers are without power in their service region as of October 12, with the majority of the outages occurring in Sonoma and Napa counties. PG&E is also working to restore natural gas service to customers approximately 36,000 customers in Kenwood, Napa, Santa Rosa, Willits, and Yountville. Utility outages throughout the region will continue to fluctuate over the coming days as restoration efforts progress, and wildfires threaten new infrastructure. 

Winds that were expected to impede firefighting efforts overnight on October 11-12 were not as strong as originally forecasted. Despite this, gusty offshore winds and low humidity levels will likely return to the North Bay mountains by the afternoon October 13; a fire weather watch will be in effect from October 13-14 due to the high potential for rapidly spreading wildfires. A number of fires have merged or are close in proximity. Because of this, firefighters are focusing on two large fire complexes of note: 

Central LNU Complex (Tubbs Fire, Pocket Fire) 
Crews have made some progress in battling the deadly Tubbs Fire in Sonoma and Napa counties. As of October 12, the fire has burned approximately 11,073 hectares (27,363 acres) and was 10-percent contained. The fire is active along the northern and eastern perimeter. The fire prompted authorities to issue evacuations for a portion of the city of Santa Rosa north of Guerneville Road and east of Fulton Road, the Annadel Heights area, and the Oakmont area north of Annadel State Park. Neighborhoods under evacuation orders include residences along Cross Creek Road, Sky Farm Drive, Saint Andrews Drive, Fountaingrove Parkway, and Montecito Heights. Both the Kaiser Permanente Hospital and Sutter Hospital in the city have also been evacuated. The Tubbs Fire also prompted the evacuation of the city of Calistoga in Napa County early on October 11. 

The Central LNU Complex includes a smaller wildfire, called the Pocket Fire. As of October 12, the Pocket Fire has burned approximately 1,618 hectares (4,000 acres) near Geyserville in Sonoma County and is zero-percent contained. The northern, eastern, and western perimeters of the fire are active. 

As of October 12, the Central LNU Complex has destroyed 576 structures and damaged another 14 buildings; more than 29,000 additional buildings are threatened by the blaze. Over 821 personnel are on site working on containment operations. The cause of the fires - which ignited on October 8-9 - are being investigated. 

Southern LNU Complex (Atlas Fire, Nuns/Norrbom Fire, Patrick Fire, Adobe Fire, Pressley Fire) 
The Southern LNU Complex, composed of several fires, has led to mandatory evacuation orders in Napa, Sonoma, and Solano counties. As of October 12, the complex has burned approximately 31,446 hectares (77,705 acres) and was 10-percent contained. More than 1,350 firefighting personnel are working to contain the fires within the Southern LNU Complex. The fires have destroyed 191 structures and threaten an additional 5,000.

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