LOS ANGELES – Around 8,000 firefighters continued to struggle on Wednesday to bring under control the nearly two-dozen wildfires that are blamed for 21 deaths in Northern California.
The flames have destroyed some 3,500 structures and consumed nearly 69,000 hectares (170,000 acres), according to the latest figures from CalFire, the state government agency that coordinates the response to wildfires.
Most of the 22 active blazes are in Sonoma and Napa counties, the heart of California’s wine region.
The largest of the outbreaks, the Atlas Fire, is only 3 percent under control, while the 11 fatalities attributed to the Tubbs Fire make it the 6th-deadliest blaze in California history.
The fires have forced at least 50,000 people from their homes, the Los Angeles Times said, citing official estimates.
“Make no mistake, this is a serious, critical, catastrophic event,” CalFire Director Ken Pimlott told a press conference.
US President Donald Trump issued a federal disaster declaration on Tuesday and California officials said that they were requesting additional assistance from the military and from neighboring states, who have already contributed 170 fire engines to the effort.
Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano said Wednesday that his office has confirmed 11 deaths related to the fires and that he expects the number to grow once authorities can reach homes destroyed by the flames.
The sheriff’s office has been able to locate 110 of the 670 country residents reported missing in the disaster, Giordano said.
The first fire broke out late Sunday night in Napa County and spread quickly.