California Fires: 15 Dead And Hundreds Homeless As Wildfires Devastate Wine Country

Napa and Sonoma Counties in northern California are the wine country of people’s dreams. The gentle, rolling hills and warm, temperate climate draw millions of tourists every year to sample the bounty of the area’s hundreds of wineries. Spectacular mansions and beautiful, upscale neighborhoods, as well as the prices the homes there command, attest to the fact that this part of California, just northeast of San Francisco, is one of the most desirable places to live in the entire country. This calm, idyllic dream land of golden grass and mile after mile of luscious vineyards became a place of hellish nightmare this past Sunday and Monday, however, as 17 different wildfires sprung up out of nowhere and burned entire neighborhoods to the ground.

Spurred on by wild, 50-mile-an-hour winds and the combination of California’s extremely wet 2017 winter, which produced a much higher than average amount of vegetation up and down the length of the state, and then the many dry months that followed, the fires ripped through whole neighborhoods, destroying homes and decimating lives. As of Tuesday, 15 people have been killed, and according to an article in the New York Times, 115,000 acres have burned over Napa, Sonoma, and six other counties. Tragic early victims of the fire include Charles Rippey and his wife Sara, 100 and 98 years old respectively, whose charred remains were discovered by police in their Napa County home Monday.

By Monday night, 20,000 people had been evacuated from their homes and scores sent to local hospitals for both burns and smoke inhalation. The death toll is expected to rise in subsequent days, as there are many people in the area still missing. According to the Los Angeles Times, 1,500 homes, businesses, and resorts have been completely destroyed.

Ruined lives in California wildfire
All that's left of one home in Napa County.[Image by David McNew/Getty Images]

On Tuesday, the winds had died down considerably, but as of this writing, every single one of the 17 fires remain active. Huge clouds of smoke blanket the area of central to northern California, blotting out the sun and covering everything in a blanket of grey ash. Gov. Jerry Brown’s request to declare a state of emergency for the area has been granted by President Trump. The governor, frequently at odds with the president, had praise for Trump and the federal government in a prepared statement.

“The Federal Emergency Management Agency has responded promptly to assist California in fighting these terrible fires. I appreciate the fast response from the president.”

Stones left to mark where home used to be
20,000 people were evacuated and thousands lost their homes. [Image by David McNew/Getty Images]

The local Bay Area NBC says that there is of yet no known cause for the blazes but both fallen power lines and arson are being considered as causes. Ninety-five percent of wildfires in California are caused by human actions in one way or another.

If you would like to help, there are a good number of worthwhile human and animal charities that are in desperate need of donations of both money and goods. See this article in Refinery 29 for a list of some of these charities.

[Featured Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]