15 dead, 150 missing in California Fire

More than 150 people are missing in wildfires that have ravaged northern California’s wine region, police say.

At least 15 people are confirmed dead and more than 1,500 homes have been destroyed by the fires which broke out on Sunday.

Nine of the deaths have been in Sonoma County.

BBC reports that one of the worst affected towns is Santa Rosa, north of San Francisco, where entire districts have been razed to the ground.

The Sonoma County sheriff’s office said 155 people were still unaccounted for, although that could be due to the chaotic pace of the evacuations.

In neighbouring Napa County, victims included 100-year-old Charles Rippey and his 98-year-old wife, Sarah, police said.

The fires are among the deadliest in California’s history and have sent smoke as far south as San Francisco, about 60 miles (100km) away.

California fire chief Ken Pimlott said on Tuesday that more than 17 fires had burned about 115,000 acres (26,000ha) in the past 24 hours.

He said his officers were trying to track down those unaccounted for but he feared the death toll could rise.

“We’re very hopeful that they’re just staying with family or friends or left town to get away and we just haven’t been able to make that contact,” he said.

“But these fires move so quickly – there are just hundreds and thousands of acres out there that we haven’t had a chance to pour through and adjudicate.”

There was some good news when winds that had been fanning the flames eased, helping firefighters to bring some of the blazes under control.

In Santa Rosa, a Hilton hotel and a mobile home park were destroyed. Tens of thousands of Sonoma County residents have fled, authorities said.

At least four wineries had suffered “total or very significant losses”, Napa Valley Vintners said, with nine others reporting some damage to buildings or vineyards.

More than 91,000 homes and businesses are without power.

California Governor Jerry Brown declared states of emergency in Sonoma, Napa and five other counties.

US President Donald Trump has also approved a disaster declaration, allowing federal emergency aid to be disbursed.

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