At least 10 dead, 1,500 structures destroyed as wildfire rages in California

SANTA ROSA – Fast-spreading fires have ravaged parts of US state of Northern California’s wine region, killing at least 10 people.

A state of emergency was declared in northern areas after mass evacuations, with 1,500 properties destroyed, the CNN reported on Tuesday.

About 20,000 people fled from Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties in response to some the state’s worst-ever wildfires.

Such fires are more common in southern California but a combination of dry weather and strong winds has fuelled the destruction in the north.

“These fires have destroyed structures and continue to threaten thousands of homes, necessitating the evacuation of thousands of residents,” Governor Jerry Brown said, declaring the emergency.

Meanwhile, in southern California, a separate wildfire burnt 24 homes or other buildings in the wealthy Anaheim Hills area of Orange County, forcing thousands of residents to evacuate.

Ten people have died and the number is expected to grow. Seven deaths were reported in the city of Santa Rosa in Sonoma County, two in Napa County and one in Mendocino County, according to officials.

More than 100 people were being treated at Napa- and Sonoma-area hospitals for fire-related injuries or health issues including burns, smoke inhalation and shortness of breath.

Dozens of vineyard workers were reportedly airlifted to safety overnight.

Wildfires were burning over 119,032 acres in California, as of Monday night.

The fires in Northern California ignited Sunday night and spread with explosive speed because of dry conditions, Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott said at a Monday news conference. Fueled by strong winds reaching up to 50 mph, firefighters were dealing with “extreme rates of spread and volatile burning conditions,” according to Cal Fire.

Wind gusts in excess of 50mph (80km/h) were reported as 15 separate wildfires burnt across some 73,000 acres, the state fire service said.