SANTA ROSA, California — The wildfires tearing through California wine country flared anew on Wednesday, growing in size and number as authorities issued new evacuation orders and announced that hundreds more homes and businesses had been lost. The death toll climbed to 21 and was expected to still increase.
At least 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed since the fires started on Sunday, making it the third deadliest and most destructive blazes in state history.
“We have had big fires in the past. This is one of the biggest, most serious, and it’s not over,” Gov. Jerry Brown said at a news conference, alongside the state’s top emergency officials, who said that 8,000 firefighters and other personnel were battling the infernos and more resources were pouring in from Oregon, Nevada, Washington and Arizona.
Nearly three days after the flames ignited, firefighters were still unable to gain control of the blazes. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant said 22 wildfires were burning, up from 17 on Tuesday.
“Make no mistake, this is a serious, critical, catastrophic event,” said Ken Pimlott, chief of the department. He said the fires have burned through a staggering 686 square kilometers of urban and rural areas. The return of high winds and low humidity ignited the ground that was parched from years of drought.