Wildfires force evacuations in Northern California

By Ed Adamczyk – UPI

Multiple wildfires have cut power in Northern California’s Bay Area and forced evacuations of hundreds of residents on Monday, authorities said.

The fires have been fanned by strong, dry northeastern winds and displaced residents. The National Weather Service reported four separate fires burning, and local authorities said structures have been destroyed in Napa and Sonoma Counties, areas famous in the wine industry.

In the Napa Valley, hundreds of acres have been charred by fires near Atlas Peak and Calistoga. In Sonoma County, evacuations were ordered in the city of Santa Rosa.

Police said early Monday that the fire crossed Highway 101 and ignited structures near a shopping area, prompting another neighborhood evacuation.

“If you live near Cardinal Newman High School or Larkfield, it is time to evacuate,” read a message from the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office. Emergency dispatchers were overwhelmed with 911 calls and advised callers to only call if actual flames were spotted.

Officials said Napa Country’s Silverado Resort and Spa, which hosted a prominent golf event that ended Sunday, was also evacuated after it lost electrical power.

“We were sleeping, but we kept smelling smoke. It was surreal,” tourist Chris Thomas told SF Gate. “When I started loading stuff into the car it was a hell-storm of smoke and ash. There were 30 to 40 mph winds. I couldn’t even breathe.”

Shelters were opened at the Calistoga Fairgrounds and a Napa church, and firefighters said their primary focus is on saving lives before fighting the flames.

The wind-driven fires have created hazardous air in parts of both counties, by sending burning embers across a large area.