22 large wildfires burned nearly 170,000 acres and destroyed at least 3,500 homesMassive out-of-controls wildfires have claimed at least 31 people and destroyed 3,500 homes in Northern California as the deadliest in state history.
According to officials more than half of the deaths occurred in Sonoma County alone, which is one of the biggest wine cities along with Napa. It broke out almost all at once on Sunday night and has started sweeping more than 300 square miles, an area as large as New York City.
"Overnight fire conditions were very active on several fronts forcing additional evacuations across northern California," the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said in a statement. "Fire fighters are battling 22 large wildfires that have burned nearly 170,000 acres (68.796 hectares) in multiple counties as of Thursday morning."
Intensified by strong winds, the fires have destroyed at least 3,500 structures and forced more than 20,000 residents to evacuate and containment of the fire has increased, said in a statement adding that weather conditions are expected to improve overnight.
California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties in Northern California, where more than 8,000 firefighters and support personnel are battling the fires.
Sonoma County sheriff's office on Thursday said around 400 people were unaccounted for in Sonoma city, about 1,000 missing people reports that have been filed since the fires began and about 600 people have been safely located.
In addition, many residents in the affected areas have been warned not to return to their homes until further notice, since mandatory evacuation orders still in place.
"Life is more important than property," Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano said at a press conference.
State officials have not yet officially said what caused the blazes. However the emergency radio traffic said the flames may have been sparked by downed power lines and blown transformers.