Monday, 09 October 2017 16:30
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Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency as multiple fires ravaged Sonoma and Napa counties on Monday, forcing widespread evacuations across wine country and burning tens of thousands of acres.

The declaration authorizes the mobilization of the California National Guard.

One of the raging fires had Santa Rosa under siege Monday morning, with a large swath of the city north of downtown under evacuation order.

The fast-moving fire jumped the 101 Freeway, forcing hospitals to be evacuated and, witnesses said, burning homes and businesses.

Residents described running for their lives as the flames approached in early morning chaos.

"People are running red lights, there is chaos ensuing," Santa Rosa resident Ron Dodds told KTVU. "It's a scary time. It looks like Armageddon."

The area of Fountaingrove appeared to be particularly hard hit, with photos showing numerous homes on fire. Officials said homes were also lost in the community of Kenwood and at a mobile home park off the 101 Freeway.

While many evacuation centers were set up, some were filled to capacity due to the large number of people fleeing.

Smoke from the fires drifted into the Bay Area, into San Francisco and as far south as San Jose.

No deaths have been reported yet in Napa County, though people are being treated at hospitals for injuries, she said. There are no estimates of how many may be injured.

The two largest fires were the Atlas Peak fire near the city of Napa, which was burning more than 10,000 acres as of 6:45 a.m., and the Tubbs fire, spreading from Calistoga to Santa Rosa in Sonoma County, according to Napa County spokeswoman Kristi Jourdan. That fire was at 20,000 acres, according to the Santa Rosa Fire Department.

Cal Fire is keeping track of three other fires in Napa, Sonoma and Lake counties, said spokesman Will Powers. The Adobe fire in Sonoma County is impacting Glen Ellen and Kenwood, the Patrick fire is impacting Napa, and the Sulfur Fire in Lake County is impacting the town of Clearlake, he said.

Taking all the fires into account, more than 1,000 people have been evacuated, he said.

“The smell of smoke is everywhere throughout the county,” Jourdan said. “As the sun comes up we can’t really see it.”

In Santa Rosa, Kaiser Permanente Hospital and Sutter Hospital were evacuated.

“We have safely evacuated the Santa Rosa medical center due to fires burning in the area. Many patients were transported to Kaiser Permanente in San Rafael and other local hospitals,” Kaiser spokeswoman Jenny Mack said in an email. “All scheduled appointments and surgeries have been canceled for the day in Santa Rosa and the Napa Medical Offices.”

Structures have burned, though there is no estimate of how far the fires have spread and how many structures have burned, Rattigan said.

The area of Fountaingrove in northern Santa Rosa appeared to be particularly hard hit, with photos showing numerous homes on fire.

The fires began around 10 p.m., she said.

“It was an inferno like you’ve never seen before,” Marian Williams, who escaped in a caravan with neighbors through flames before dawn near the town of Kenwood, told the Associated Press. “Trees were on fire like torches,” she said.

The cause of the fires are still under investigation.

“It’s been incredibly windy here,” Rattigan said. Winds are consistently “around 15 miles per hour and we have gusts up to 22 miles per hour, and we’re expecting that to continue throughout the day.”

Upwards of 300 firefighters are battling the blazes in Napa County, she said. There are three evacuation centers for Napa County residents, though one—the Crosswalk Community Church—is full, she said. The other two are the Calistoga Fairgrounds and at Napa Valley College.

Residents can text their ZIP code to 888777 to receive Nixle alerts about the fires and evacuation centers, she said.

“When I started loading stuff into the car it was a hell-storm of smoke and ash. There were 30- to 40-mph winds. I couldn’t even breathe,” Napa Valley visitor Chris Thomas told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It went from being an annoying evacuation to something really scary.”

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