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CA Fires Death Toll, Damages Take Shape

Monday, October 16, 2017

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The fall fire season in California is turning out to be the most dangerous yet, with dozens of lives lost and hundreds of thousands of acres burned.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said that, as of Thursday, 190,000 acres had been scorched across the state. Officials also confirmed 31 people dead and at least 400 are missing. And in Southern California, the Anaheim Hills fire has scorched nearly 9,200 acres, damaged 60 structures and killed one person.


Dozens of separate fires have spread cross eight northern California counties, namely Napa, Yuba and Sonoma, destroying 3,500 buildings in their wake.

Emergency officials are under some scrutiny over the amount of time they’re giving people to evacuate given how quickly the fires can spread. Reports say that many had to leave their homes in the middle of the night, with little more than the materials they could carry.

This included the widow of “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz, Jean, 78, who escaped her Northern California hillside home in the wee hours of the morning.

“The fire came by at, like, two in the morning,” Jean’s stepson Monte Schulz said. “Everything's gone. It's the house he died in. All of their memorabilia and everything is all gone.”

Aerial photos of the region show whole neighborhoods turned to ash, and also illustrate the erratic behavior of the flames—torching one side of a cul-de-sac, but leaving the other arch untouched, for instance.

The Los Angeles Times notes that this is just the beginning of the fire season, and breaks down that the wet winter created lots of new brush growth, which is extremely flammable and compounded by the area’s summer—the hottest on record—which effectively dried up all of that vegetation, creating acres of kindling.

Curbed San Francisco pulled numbers from California-based property analytics company CoreLogic, which had provided an estimated assessment of this season last year.

It calculated that 2,600 homes in Napa are at “high” or “extreme” risk from wildfires, and the same applies to more than 8,400 homes in Sonoma. Total “potential risk” homes for the two areas totals nearly 200,000. To rebuild from that would take $65 billion.

The report only assessed residential structures, and definitive numbers from this week’s string of blazes—or the entire season—won’t be known for some time.


Tagged categories: Disasters; Fatalities; Fire; Good Technical Practice; Health and safety; North America

Comment from Michael Halliwell, (10/16/2017, 11:05 AM)

WIldfires suck...Fort McMurray didn't have as many structures destroyed, but the fire was just as on one side of the street left as ash, while the other side of the street was untouched. Here's hoping for a speedy recovery for the victims and that the fire fighters get some cooperative weather and the upper hand soon.

Comment from Gregory Stoner, (10/16/2017, 3:51 PM)

Forest fires occur every year with these current fires costing more than 65 billion and numerous lives. We need a national plan to combat this issue. We need to be proactive by training thousands of forest rangers who identify potential risks and then hire help to clear out fire lines. These events are going to continue we need to deal with it.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (10/19/2017, 7:59 AM)

Training homeowners to select fire-resistant vegetation for their yard helps a lot as well. Rosemary grows great in semi-arid conditions, low maintenance, looks good, stays pretty green - it also burns really well.

Comment from Michael Halliwell, (10/20/2017, 11:19 AM)

In fire prone areas, you'd also think you'd need to train homeowners to keep the vegetation away from the house. Sure, the yard looks great with all those bushes coming right up to the house...but that makes a wonderful "fuse" to light the house off too.

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