Thousands flee wildfires roaring through California

SANTA ROSA, UNITED STATES (AFP) – Tens of thousands of Californians fled their homes in Napa and Sonoma regions in the face of wildfires, emergency officials said, as a new blaze in the north of the state killed three people.

Under an orange sky and a sweltering heatwave, some of Napa Valley’s best-known vineyards were consumed by an out-of-control blaze that raced through more than 35,000 acres, according to state fire agency Cal Fire.

There was a “significant loss” of buildings on the fringes of Santa Rosa – neighbouring Sonoma County’s largest town – said fire chief Tony Gossner.

Around 200 miles north, three people perished in a “very fast-moving, very fluid, very hot” fire in Shasta County, said Sheriff Eric Magrini.

The fires prompted authorities to order more than 35,000 residents to evacuate, with thousands more poised to flee, as “explosive fire growth” burnt through dry vegetation and difficult mountainous terrain, officials said. The causes of the fires are still being investigated.

Calistoga, a picturesque community at the top of the Napa Valley known for hot springs, has largely been evacuated. CeeBee Thompson spent sleepless hours watching flames in the distance and packing her car, as Calistoga’s recently installed warning sirens sounded twice during the night.

“We could see flames shooting up all night long,” Thompson told AFP. “The only thing we have left to do is put the cats in the car.”

A damaged vehicle and warehouse in Calistoga, California. PHOTO: AP