Northern California Wildfires Kill 3, Force Evacuation of Thousands

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (Reuters) -
A deputy with the Napa County Sheriff’s Office Animal Services Unit carries an injured cat near a property destroyed by the Glass Incident Fire in the Deer Park neighborhood in St. Helena, California, Monday. (Reuters/Stephen Lam)

A northern California wildfire raging in the foothills of the Cascade range has claimed three lives, officials said, as a separate blaze prompted mass evacuations and spread turmoil to the famed wine-producing regions of Napa and Sonoma counties.

The three fatalities in the so-called Zogg Fire in Shasta County, which erupted on Sunday near Redding, about 200 miles north of San Francisco, were reported by the county sheriff and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire). They were all civilians.

No further details about the victims or how they perished were immediately provided. But the deaths bring to 29 the number of people killed since mid-August in a California wildfire season of historic proportions.

The Zogg fire, which has destroyed 146 structures and charred 31,000 acres of grassy hillsides and oak woodlands thick with dry scrub, coincided with the outbreak of another conflagration in the heart of California’s wine country north of the Bay area.

That blaze, dubbed the Glass Fire, has spread across 36,000 acres of similar terrain in Napa and Sonoma counties since early Sunday, incinerating more than 100 homes and other buildings, forcing thousands of residents to flee and threatening world-renowned vineyards, according to CalFire.

Both fires were listed at zero containment as of Monday evening. The cause of each was under investigation. They marked the latest flashpoints in a destructive spate of wildfires this summer across the Western United States.

In California this year, wildfires have scorched 3.7 million acres (1.5 million hectares) since January – far exceeding any single year in state history. They have been stoked by intense, prolonged bouts of heat, high winds and other weather extremes that scientists attribute to climate change.

More than 7,000 homes and other structures have burned statewide so far this year.

The Glass Fire struck about midway through the region’s traditional grape-harvesting season, already disrupted by a spate of large fires earlier this summer.

The full impact on the region’s wine business remains to be seen and will differ for each grower, depending on how far along each is in the harvest, said Teresa Wall, spokeswoman for the Napa Valley Vintners trade group.

The fires caused major upheavals for the area’s most vulnerable residents already grappling with the coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday, residents at Oakmont Gardens, a Santa Rosa retirement community, leaned on walkers and waited to board a bus taking them to safety, their face masks doubling as protection against smoke and COVID-19.

Over 100,000 homes and business have suffered power outages across northern California since Sunday, some from precautionary shutoffs of transmission lines to reduce wildfire risks in the midst of extremely windy, hot, dry weather, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. reported.

Red-flag warnings for extreme wildfire risks remained posted for much of Northern California, forecasting low humidity and gale-force wind gusts.