Fires Rage Across California

Wildfires have been raging in California's wine country since Sunday, October 8, 2017, and have already claimed more than a dozen lives and many pieces of property.

As of Tuesday night 17 people have died, hundreds of people have been put in the hospital, about 2,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed and 20,000 have fled before the oncoming flames. Authorities say that the number of casualties and damages are only expected to rise in the coming days, due to the number of people who are still missing and the fact that many areas are inaccessible to emergency services.

The land in question is some of the most expensive real estate in the country, and supplies a large amount of the United States' homegrown wine. Many vineyards have already been destroyed, and it is unclear how much of an impact this will ultimately have on this year's grape harvest.

Two fires in particular have been especially destructive, having consumed more than 52,000 acres of land in Napa and Sonoma Counties, aided by the 50 mph winds that have been coming and going since Sunday night. Chief Ken Pimlott of the state's firefighting agency, Cal Fire, has described these two fires as “zero percent contained.”

In recent years the state, like many, has sent out warnings via text messages for various disasters, but these did little good for some people, who found fires spring up out of nowhere before authorities were able to issue the notices.

“We always thought the alert system would give us time, but there was no notice, no warning,” said Maureen Grinnell, age 77, who was with her 89-year-old husband Sheldon and her 19-year-old granddaughter when they noticed the flames near their home. She says that they took about ten minutes to gather their dog and some supplies before evacuating, at which point the flames had already spread to her house.

“By the time I started to back the car out of the garage, the house was already on fire. I drove down the road through smoke with flames on both sides. It almost looked like the burning of Atlanta in Gone With the Wind."

Ms. Grinnell and her family are only a few of the many people whose lives have been upturned by this disaster. It is not clear how many others there will be by the time that these fires are finally put out.


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