California Wildfires: Many reported missing may be OK


An entire neighborhood in Santa Rosa, California, was leveled after a massive wildfire incinerated swaths of wine country early this week.

A resurgence of dry, gusty winds threatened to push flames into the Napa Valley town of Calistoga, whose 5,000-plus residents were ordered from their homes on Wednesday night as conditions worsened and fire crept closer. The situation is being called one of the deadliest firestorms in state history.

But state and local officials warned that about 180 people are missing and unaccounted for, and some areas still out of reach of emergency crews, those figures are nearly certain to rise.The largest fires were burning in Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties, filling the picturesque landscape of the state's wine country with charred rubble and clouds of smoke.

Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano told a press conference Thursday that "the new number of death" is 14 in Somona County and that the sheriff has received a total of 900 missing people reports by Thursday morning.

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

"The best we can pray for is that they haven't checked in", emergency operations spokeswoman Jennifer Larocque told Reuters.

Almost two dozen fires spanning eight counties have raged largely unchecked since igniting on Sunday, leaving hundreds of residents unaccounted for. Authorities say at least four wineries have been destroyed including an elite one near Atlas Peak in Napa. Thirteen of those were confirmed dead in the Tubbs Fire.

The fires already have charred about 170,000 acres (69,000 hectares) of land and destroyed some 3,500 buildings.

In addition to high winds, the fires have been stoked by an abundance of thick brush left ready to burn by a dry, hot summer.