Northern California Fires Death Count at 31 & Force Nearly 2,500 People to Flee
Fire officials are investigating whether downed power lines or other utility failures could have sparked the fires in California wine country.
The communities of Northern California were preparing for another day under siege Friday, despite being driven to exhaustion by evacuations, destruction, and danger amid the deadliest week of wildfires the state has ever seen.
The death toll had climbed to an unprecedented 31 and is expected to keep rising.
Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano says officials are investigating hundreds of reports of missing people and that recovery teams will start doing targeted searches for bodies Thursday. He warns that identification may be difficult and take some time.
He says officials have found some bodies almost completely intact but other remains are "nothing more than ash and bones."
Meanwhile, the California National Guard is bringing fuel to first responders because so many gas stations are without power.
Officials say trucks are bringing fuel into inaccessible areas and helping fuel emergency vehicles directly from the trucks. The utility companies have representatives stationed at the state's emergency operations headquarters in Sacramento working to get power back up and running.
Emergency operations director Mark Ghilarducci says several thousand people in Napa and Sonoma counties are still without power. Seventy-seven cellular sites were damaged or destroyed, also disrupting communication.
Major General David Baldwin of the California National Guard says 242 soldiers and airmen are assisting in responding to the fires in the two counties.
Since igniting Sunday in spots across eight counties, the fires have transformed many neighborhoods into wastelands. At least 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed and an estimated 25,000 people forced to flee.
Fire officials were investigating whether downed power lines or other utility failures could have sparked the fires.
The California Highway Patrol says numerous roads are closed in the fire region, which is an eight-county swath of wine country north of San Francisco.
The Napa Valley Vintners trade association said Monday that most wineries were closed because of power outages, evacuation orders and employees who couldn't get to work. The organization did not have firm numbers on wineries that burned or information on how the fires might affect the industry. But it said most grapes had already been picked.
About 12% of grapes grown in California are in Sonoma, Napa and surrounding counties, said Anita Oberholster, a cooperative extension specialist in enology at the University of California, Davis. But they are the highest value grapes that yield the most expensive wines, she said.
Earlier, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties because of wildfires that the governor says are threatening thousands of homes.
Brown issued the declaration on Monday, as multiple fires forced people to evacuate their homes.
The Reno Fire Department says they are sending out a crew to help with the fires.
(CalFire, RFD, The Associated Press and CBS contributed to this report.)
In one of our initial broadcasts, we introduced our viewers to Lilly, a 9 year old whose prosthetic legs were destroyed in the fire.
We received numerous inquiries asking how people can donate money to help replace her legs.
Lilly has a gofundme.com page, which can be accessed using this link: www.gofundme.com/life-without-limitations