California Fires

October 20, 2017
The sun rises over Santa Rosa, California, on October 10.
PAUL KITAGAKI JR.—THE SACRAMENTO BEE/AP

A state of emergency was declared in California last week. More than a dozen wildfires broke out in the state. Most of them began on October 8, in Northern California. They grew rapidly. The fires were fueled by winds of up to 50 miles per hour and dry conditions in the region.

At least 20 people have been killed, state authorities say. About 200 have been injured. At least 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed. About 50,000 people have been forced to evacuate. Many left in a hurry, without time to gather personal belongings. “All that good stuff—I’m never going to see it again,” Jeff Okrepkie said. He fled from his Santa Rosa home. It was destroyed soon after he left.

The fires burned through parts of eight counties. These include Sonoma and Napa. The areas are important to California’s economy. They are home to many of the state’s vineyards and wineries. In 2016, California’s wineries generated more than $57 billion.

October is when wildfires usually produce the most destruction in California. But it is unusual for so many fires to start at once. At press time, authorities had not announced a cause for any of the fires, many of which were still burning.