At Least 21 Dead, 170K Acres Burned in 22 Major Fires Statewide
(BayAreaNewsTalk.com) – At least 21 people have died and more than 170,000 acres have burned as of today in 22 major fires throughout California, primarily in eight northern counties, but the statewide focus is on wildfires burning in the North Bay where officials are concerned that some of the fires may merge together.
“We’re not out of the woods and we’re not going to be out of the woods for a number of days,” Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott said during a midday news conference in Sacramento.
The weather conditions that initially sparked these fires Sunday night have returned today, with low humidity and high winds in areas with critically dry fuel, according to Pimlott.
“We are literally looking at explosive vegetation,” Pimlott said. “Make no mistake, this is a serious, critical catastrophic event.”
“These fires aren’t just in the back woods,” Pimlott said. “These fires are burning in and around, through, developed communities.”
“These fires are burning faster than firefighters can run,” he added. “It’s very difficult to get any kind of containment.”
There are more than 100 aircraft and 500 engines as well as nearly 8,000 firefighters committed to the fight, and crews working the 8,000-acre Canyon Two Fire in Orange County are being redeployed to Northern California as that incident is being contained.
Out-of-state resources have been requested from Washington, Oregon, Arizona and Nevada, and there are roughly 60 additional hand crews and 155 engines coming to California’s aid.
“We have access to every available asset in the country,” Pimlott said.
The California National Guard has already deployed 700 soldiers and airmen, as well as firefighting aircraft and two unmanned drones, which are monitoring the fires from the air.
The California National Guard is also planning to deploy an additional 1,800 personnel, including the 49th Military Police Brigade.
The California Highway Patrol has 112 personnel, mainly in the Santa Rosa area, to deal with possible looters and provide general law enforcement services.
There are an estimated 4,400 displaced people who are housed at shelters today, according to the state Office of Emergency Services, which has distributed more than 44,000 meals and 60,000 liters of water.
Gov. Jerry Brown attended today’s news conference, calling the fires in the state “profoundly serious.”
“That’s the way it is with a warming climate, dry weather and reducing moisture,” Brown said. “These kinds of catastrophes have happened and they will continue to happen.”