Moving wildfires ravage Northern California's wine country

1 dead as destructive wildfires torch California wine country

Fast-moving wildfires ravage Northern California's wine country

Firefighters battled wind-whipped wildfires Tuesday in California which have left at least 11 people dead, thousands homeless and ravaged the state's famed wine country.

Firefighters assess the scene as a house burns in the Napa region of California.

Numerous people had been hurt and some were hurt, but no estimates were immediately available, said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Director Ken Pimlott.

"We're focusing on making evacuations and trying to keep people safe". At least 1500 commercial, residential and industrial structures were burnt, Mr Cox said, although details of the extent of the damage remained scarce.

The ferocity of the flames forced authorities to focus primarily on getting people out safely, even if it meant abandoning structures to the fire. Gabs Meline, a producer at KQED radio, noted on Twitter that most residents still don't know how their homes fared.

Marian Williams of Kenwood, in Sonoma County, told NBC Bay Area she joined a convoy of neighbors driving through the flames before dawn as one of the fires reached the area's vineyards.

The state's fire chief called the damage estimates conservative and said the fires were burning throughout an eight-county swath of Northern California, including Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties.

"I think it would be one of the worst disasters in California history", Captain Mike Palacio with the California Highway Patrol said at a community meeting. They quickly spread across some 29,542 hectares, fire officials said, and sent smoke as far south as San Francisco, about 96km away. "We are not prepared to start counting", she said shortly after sunrise.

The fires continued well into Tuesday and Brown said that the flames grew so rapidly that residents had little time to leave their homes and flee to temporary shelters.

Thousands of people in Tustin, Orange and Anaheim were allowed to begin returning home Tuesday evening, a day after the blaze erupted in northern Orange County.

Emergency lines were inundated with callers reporting smoke, prompting officials to ask that the public "only use 911 if they see actual unattended flames, or are having another emergency".

"It takes at least three years minimum to get a crop that you can actually do something with", Ms Koehler said.

Most of the damage was in Santa Rosa where the fires destroyed homes, melted the glass off of cars and turned wheels into liquid, according to the AP.

Turpen said "it was like Armageddon was on", as he raced home in his auto. Crying, Lien Mai, a Coffey Park resident whose home was destroyed, told the New York Times.

October traditionally is peak fire season in the Golden State, when the ground is driest and the winds are strongest.

"We just had to run and run. We could barely breathe", Hoe said.

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