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October 2017 Northern California wildfires

In early October 2017, a series of wildfires started burning across the state of California, United States. They broke out throughout Napa, Lake, Sonoma, Mendocino, Butte, and Solano counties during severe fire weather conditions effectively leading to a major red flag warning from much of the Northern California area. Seventeen separate wildfires were reported at this time.[3] These fires included the Tubbs Fire (which grew to become the most destructive wildfire in the history of California),[1][4] the Atlas Fire, Nuns Fire and others.

October 2017 Northern California wildfires
California fires ESA385120.jpg
Copernicus Sentinel-3A satellite picture, October 9
Statistics[1]
Total area 210,244 acres (85,083 ha)
Cost > $3 billion[2]
Date(s) October 8, 2017 (2017-10-08) – present
Buildings
destroyed
5,700
Fatalities 42
Injuries 185
Location of Northern California wildfires
2017 Northern California wildfires from October 7 to October 14

Owing to the extreme conditions, shortly after the fires ignited on October 8 and 9, they rapidly grew to become extensive, full-scale incidents spanning from 1,000 acres (400 hectares) to well over 20,000 acres (8,100 ha) each within a single day. By October 14, the fires had burned more than 210,000 acres (85,000 ha), and destroyed an estimated 5,700 structures [5][1] while forcing 90,000 people to evacuate from their homes.[6] The Northern California fires have killed at least 42 people[1] and hospitalized at least 185,[7] making the week of October 8, 2017, the deadliest week of wildfires in California history.[8][9][1][10][2] Collectively, this event constitutes the largest loss of life due to wildfires in the United States since the Cloquet Fire in 1918.[11]

Contents

Weather

Days prior to the wildfires, the National Weather Service had begun issuing red flag warnings throughout much of northern California as conditions were expected to become extremely volatile, with winds expected to be gusting between 25 and 35 miles per hour (40 and 56 km/h) from the north to the south.[12] By the evening of October 8, the Diablo winds were reported gusting up to 70 miles per hour (110 km/h) within the affected areas as over a dozen wildfires began to break out.[13]

Impact and reaction

Many of those killed in the fires are believed to have died late on October 8 or early on October 9, 2017, when the fires broke out overnight. Most of the victims have been elderly, though the ages have ranged from 14 to 100.[14]

On October 9, California governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for the counties of Napa, Sonoma, Yuba, Butte, Lake, Mendocino, Nevada, and Orange, and sent a letter to the White House requesting a major disaster declaration.[15][16] President Donald Trump approved the disaster declaration on October 10.[15] That evening, Brown issued an emergency declaration for Solano County.[15] Surveying the region, representative Mike Thompson of California's 5th congressional district said, "I fully expect this will be the worst fire disaster in California history."[15]

More than 10,000 firefighters have been battling the blaze, using more than 1000 fire engines and other equipment, with crews arriving from as far away as Canada and Australia.[6][14]

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) reported that 310,000 customers lost electricity service and 42,000 customers lost gas service since the wildfires started on October 8. By October 14, PG&E restored electricity to 92% and gas service to 16,800 of the customers affected.[2]

Air pollution

By October 12, the air quality in the city of Napa was ranked the poorest in the nation, due to high levels of particulates and ozone.[17] By October 13, air quality in the city reached the "hazardous" level, the most dangerous on the Environmental Protection Agency scale.[2] In Solano County, over 250 people were sickened by smoke inhalation, and sought care at hospitals. Twenty-three were admitted to emergency rooms.[17]

By October 12, smoke from the wildfires had spread nearly 100 miles, with "unhealthy" air quality indices registered in the cities of Oakland, San Francisco, and San Rafael.[17] Due to the poor air quality, San Francisco State University canceled classes, and outdoor activities were canceled in a number of cities, including Danville, Redwood City, and Walnut Creek.[18] Visibility issues spurred the Federal Aviation Administration to implement a ground delay program at San Francisco International Airport, and nearly 280 flights were canceled over a three-day period.[19] Over a week after the fires started, flights continued to be canceled and delayed due to poor visibility from the smoke.[20]

Fires

As of October 20, 2017
Name County Acres Start date Containment date % contained Deaths Notes Ref
Nuns Napa, Sonoma 54,382 October 8, 2017 85% 2 Merged with Norrbom, Adobe, Partrick, Pressley, and Oakmont fires [21]
Atlas Napa, Solano 51,624 October 8, 2017 87% 6 [8][22]
Tubbs Napa, Sonoma 36,432 October 8, 2017 93% 22 [1][8][23]
Redwood/Potter Mendocino 36,523 October 9, 2017 95% 8 [8][24]
Pocket Sonoma 16,552 October 9, 2017 82% [25]
Cascade Yuba 9,989 October 9, 2017 October 19, 2017 Contained 4 [26]
Cherokee Butte 8,417 October 8, 2017 October 16, 2017 Contained [27]
La Porte Butte 6,151 October 9, 2017 October 19, 2017 Contained [28]
Sulphur Lake 2,207 October 9, 2017 96% [29]
37 Fire Sonoma 1,660 October 9, 2017 October 12, 2017 Contained [1]

Atlas Fire

 
Aerial view of smoke from the 2017 fires in Napa and Sonoma Counties, California, on October 12 from near the south end of Lake Berryessa, nearest to the Atlas fire and looking toward the Nuns fire. Point Reyes is visible in the distance.

The Atlas Fire is burning in Napa County, north of the city of Napa, near Napa Soda Springs.[22] As of October 15, it covered 51,057 acres and was 56% contained.[22]

Cherokee Fire

The Cherokee Fire broke out on the evening of Sunday, October 8, near Oroville in Butte County just after 9 p.m. Reportedly igniting near Cherokee Road, the fire quickly expanded from hundreds to thousands of acres within a few hours of burning as it threatened nearby Oroville and surrounding rural neighborhoods.[30]

Nuns Fire

The Nuns Fire, centered in the areas to the east and north of the city of Sonoma, merged with the Norrbom fire on October 11.[31] The Adobe fire merged with Nuns/Norrbom on October 12.[1] The Partrick fire joined the four-fire conflagration on October 13.[18] By October 16, the combined fire, which now also included the Pressley fire, covered over 48,000 acres.[21] On October 18, the Oakmont Fire merged in and the combined fire grew to over 54,000 acres.[1]

Tubbs Fire

 
Aerial view of smoke from the Tubbs and Pocket fires, with the north end of Lake Berryessa, October 12

The Tubbs Fire started near Tubbs Lane in Calistoga on the evening of October 8, 2017 and has burned at least 34,000 acres (13,759 ha).[15][32] In the Fountain Grove area numerous homes, the historic Fountaingrove Inn, Round Barn, and a Hilton resort were destroyed.[33] By October 14, the death toll from this fire alone had risen to 20.[2] By October 20, the Tubbs Fire had become the most destructive wildfire in the history of California.[1][4]

Investigation

As of October 12, 2017, the cause of the fires remained under investigation.[34]

News media noted reports of wind-damaged power equipment around the time the fires were starting.[34] Pacific Gas & Electric stated that strong winds had affected the utility's power lines in the North Bay area on late October 8 and early October 9.[35] A California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) spokesperson stated that investigators were considering this among other possible causes.[34]

CAL FIRE Director Ken Pimlott discouraged premature speculation of causes, stating that "The facts will come out when the investigations are done."[34]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "California Statewide Fire Summary". CAL FIRE. State of California. Retrieved October 20, 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Ho, Vivian; Lyons, Jenna (15 October 2017). "Live updates: Northern Calif. wildfires cause estimated $3 billion damage; death toll still 40". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 16 October 2017. 
  3. ^ Fuller, Thomas; Bromwich, Jonah Engel; Turkewitz, Julie (October 10, 2017). "Wildfires Sweep Across Northern California; 13 Are Dead". The New York Times. Retrieved October 10, 2017. 
  4. ^ a b "Top 20 Most Destructive California Wildfires" (PDF). CAL FIRE. Retrieved October 20, 2017. 
  5. ^ Kohli, Sonali; St. John, Paige (October 13, 2017). "Death toll rises to 32, more victims identified in deadly Northern California fires". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 13, 2017. 
  6. ^ a b "California firefighters battle winds as number of people evacuated hits 90,000". The Guardian. Associated Press. October 14, 2017. Retrieved October 14, 2017. 
  7. ^ FOX. "California wildfires by the numbers: 40 killed, 5,700 homes destroyed". KTVU. Retrieved 2017-10-16. 
  8. ^ a b c d Uria, Daniel; DuVall, Eric (October 14, 2017). "California wildfire death toll rises to 38, earthquake hits Mendocino County". UPI. Retrieved October 14, 2017. 
  9. ^ "Northern California Wildfires: Emergency Alerts Scrutinized Amid Deadly Blazes". NBC News. Associated Press. October 12, 2017. Retrieved October 12, 2017. 
  10. ^ "California fires: deadliest week in history kills 31 as blaze rages on". The Guardian. Associated Press. October 12, 2017. Retrieved October 12, 2017. 
  11. ^ "America's Most Devastating Wildfires | American Experience | PBS". www.pbs.org. Retrieved 2017-10-16. 
  12. ^ "Red Flag Warnings". CAL FIRE. October 7, 2017. Retrieved October 7, 2017. 
  13. ^ Lin II, Rong-Gong (October 9, 2017). "'Diablo winds' fuel widespread destruction from fires in California wine country". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 9, 2017. 
  14. ^ a b "Firefighters beating back deadly California wildfires, official says". The Guardian. Associated Press. October 15, 2017. Retrieved October 15, 2017. 
  15. ^ a b c d e Lyons, Jenna; Rubenstein, Steve; Aleaziz, Hamed; Fimrite, Peter; Tucker, Jill (October 11, 2017). "Live updates: 23 dead in Wine Country fires; parts of city of Napa warned". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved October 11, 2017. 
  16. ^ Wong, Julia Carrie; Gee, Alastair (October 9, 2017). "California wildfires: 10 killed in 'unprecedented' wine country blaze". The Guardian. Retrieved October 9, 2017. 
  17. ^ a b c Lyons, Jenna; Rubenstein, Steve; Gutierrez, Melody (October 12, 2017). "Live updates: Fire death toll at 29 in Northern California fires". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved October 12, 2017. 
  18. ^ a b Lyons, Jenna; Ma, Annie; Egelko, Bob; Gutierrez, Melody (October 13, 2017). "Live updates: Death toll rises to 32 in Northern California wildfires". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved October 13, 2017. 
  19. ^ Ioannou, Filipa (October 13, 2017). "Wildfire smoke continues to delay, cancel flights at SFO". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved October 13, 2017. 
  20. ^ Ioannou, Filipa (October 17, 2017). "Smoke continues to cause delays and cancellations at SFO". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved October 17, 2017. 
  21. ^ a b "Nuns Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved October 9, 2017. 
  22. ^ a b c "Atlas Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved October 8, 2017. 
  23. ^ "Tubbs Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved October 9, 2017. 
  24. ^ "Redwood Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved October 9, 2017. 
  25. ^ "Pocket Fire". State of California. October 12, 2017. 
  26. ^ "Cascade Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved October 9, 2017. 
  27. ^ "Cherokee Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved October 8, 2017. 
  28. ^ "La Porte Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved October 9, 2017. 
  29. ^ "Sulphur Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved October 9, 2017. 
  30. ^ "Crews Working Fast-Moving Fire in Oroville Near Cherokee Road". FOX 40. October 9, 2017. Retrieved October 9, 2017. 
  31. ^ "Incident Update" (PDF). Cal Fire. October 12, 2017. Retrieved October 13, 2017. 
  32. ^ "Santa Rosa mayor: 2,834 homes destroyed in Tubbs Fire". KCRA. October 12, 2017. Retrieved October 12, 2017. 
  33. ^ "Fire destroys Paradise Ridge Winery, Fountaingrove Inn, Willi's Wine Bar, other local landmarks". The Press Democrat. October 9, 2017. Retrieved October 9, 2017. 
  34. ^ a b c d Albarazi, Hannah (12 October 2017). "Downed lines, equipment failures among possible causes of Northern California wildfires". CBS San Francisco. Retrieved 15 October 2017. 
  35. ^ Smith, Dakota (11 October 2017). "Cause of raging Northern California fires remains under investigation, officials say". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 15 October 2017. 

External links