US - Northern California wildfires

11 Oct 2017

Firefighters continue to battle several wildfires in northern California. At least 17 active wildfires have destroyed approximately 1,500 structures, including commercial and residential buildings, in the northern portion of the state. At least 20,000 people have heeded evacuation orders, primarily in Sonoma and Napa counties. Authorities have confirmed that the fires have killed at least 13 people; the death toll could rise in the coming days as search and rescue teams conduct operations in the hardest hit neighborhoods and rural areas. California Governor Jerry Brown has requested that the federal government declare a major disaster declaration; if granted, federal resources would supplement local and state agencies in firefighting efforts. 

As of the afternoon of October 9, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) reports that about 99,000 customers are without power in their service region, with a majority of the outages occurring in Sonoma and Napa counties. PG&E has also turned off natural gas service to customers in Santa Rosa, Yountville, Napa, and Kenwood. Both AT&T and Verizon are reporting cell network outages throughout Sonoma and Napa counties. Utility outages throughout the region will continue to be in flux over the coming days as restoration efforts progress, and wildfires threaten new infrastructure. 

As of October 10, weather conditions have improved in northern California meaning that Red Flag warnings are no longer in effect, and wind speeds have diminished. Firefighters will likely be able to better contain fires; however, dry conditions could promote some additional growth in the coming days. Crews are focusing on two large fires of note: 

Tubbs Fire 
The Tubbs Fire has burned approximately 10,926 hectares (27,000 acres) and was zero-percent contained as of early October 10. The fire prompted authorities to issue evacuations, including a portion of the city of Santa Rosa north of Guerneville Road and east of Fulton Road, as well as an 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. Authorities have established emergency shelters at educational and religious facilities throughout Sonoma County. As of early October 10, the New Vintage Church and Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building in Santa Rosa, and the New Life Christian Fellowship Church and Petaluma Community Center in Petaluma have reached capacity and are no longer accepting evacuees. 

Atlas Fire 
The Atlas Fire, located south of Lake Berryessa in Napa County, was detected on October 8. As of October 10, the fire had burned roughly 10,117 hectares (25,000 acres) and was zero-percent contained. More than 470 firefighting personnel are battling the blaze, which has spread southward over steep terrain. The fire has destroyed 124 structures and threatens an additional 5,000. Hundreds of residents have been placed under mandatory evacuations, including those living in or near Monticello Park, the Silverado Country Club, Hardman/McKinley/Estee, Circle Oaks, Buhman, Wild Horse Valley Road, Silverado Trail (between Trancas to Highway 128), and the area between Highway 128 and Moskowite. Emergency shelters have been established at the Napa Valley College and the Calistoga Fairgrounds. 

Both fires are contributing to transport disruptions throughout Sonoma and Napa counties. Highway 128 is closed from Tubbs Lane to Maacama Ridge Road; the route is also closed south of Lake Berryessa between Silverado Trail and Greaves Road. Highway 121 is closed from Vichy Avenue to Wooden Valley Road in Napa County. Additional road closures are ongoing on secondary and rural routes within evacuation zones. Intermittent closures will likely continue on other area roadways due to fire activity and the needs of response operations.


Further assistance

If you require emergency assistance while travelling, please contact Chubb Insurance Assistance. The contact details are listed below:

Travel emergency 24/7 contact

Chubb Assistance phone +61 2 8907 5995 and quote UQ policy number 01PP529201. Reverse phone charge is available.

Campus Travel can be contacted 24/7, 365 days a year.

Number: +61 7 3393 8855 (calls from overseas)

Number: 1300 662 703 (calls from within Australia)