NAPA, Calif. – With roads still blocked by the police and fires still raging across broad swaths of Northern California, Matt Lenzi hiked through smoke-choked vineyards and waded the Napa River to reach the home his father lived in for 53 years.
"Every piece of vegetation was gone," said Mr. Lenzi on Tuesday, after going back in the vain hope of finding the pet cat that his father, Carl Lenzi, who is in his 80s, left behind when he fled for his life.
The fires ravaging California 's wine country since Sunday night – part of an outbreak of blazes stretching almost the entire length of the state – continued to burn out of control 2,000 buildings destroyed or damaged.
The two biggest and most destructive fires consumed more.
The two biggest and most destructive fires consumed more Santa Rosa, Napa and Calistoga. This is a great place to spend a few days in Santa Rosa, Napa and Calistoga. The winds died down on Tuesday, but were caught in the middle of the week, and Chief Ken Pimlott of Cal Fire, the state's firefighting agency, described the two fires, and a smaller one nearby as "zero percent contained.
About 20,000 people heeded evacuation warnings, fleeing on their fires overtook their towns. In Sonoma County alone, 5,000 people took shelter in evacuation centers on Monday night, the county reported, and new evacuation orders were issued on Tuesday.
"We have always been able to make the most of our everyday life, Maureen Grinnell, 77, who lived in the hills north of Napa with her husband, Sheldon, 89, who uses a walker. "I was watching a movie with my 19-year-old granddaughter and I smelled smoke, and I looked out the window to see flames approaching."
"By the time I was already in the garage, the house was already on fire, "Ms. Grinnell said. "I drove down the road through smoke with flames on both sides. Pamela Taylor, 66, at first watched the fire from the mobile home park in Santa Rosa where she lived, thinking it was not near and then, suddenly, it was. "A gigantic fireball jumped across the freeway to the trees around the trailer park," she said, "and there were no turning the gas off."
James Harder and his friends managed to save his business, James Cole Winery, a small-scale maker of high-priced cabernets, even as the nearby Signorello Estate winery burned. Mr. Harder is a member of the Board of Trustees of the United States of America. meant to irrigate his vines.
"We just thought, 'Keep working, keep working,'" he said. "
All around them, in some of the most expensive real estate in the country, they could see neighbors' houses going up in flames, their propane tanks exploding with ground-shaking force.
Next door, the gate to the Signorello property was open on Tuesday and a sign said "Open," but no one was there. The reception area was destroyed, fires still burned from gas pipes there, and ash covered an infinity pool with a commanding view of the valley.
How much of the season's grape harvest was destroyed remains unclear.
Across the state, 17 wide wildfires were still burning Tuesday, covering 115,000 acres, Chief Pimlott said.
An unusually wet winter produced ample brush, and the state's hottest summer on record dried it to tinder, setting the stage for a rough. The whole American West has experienced a brutal wildfire season, even as people in the Southeast have suffered the floods and winds of hurricanes. As of Oct. 6, wildfires had raced through 8.5 million acres, well above the last decade's average of six million per year.
Most of the current California wildfires are in the north, including a large one in Mendocino County Sierra Nevada, the north coast and the San Joaquin Valley. But in Southern California, a fire that broke out on Monday in the Anaheim Hills, a smoke-free sending smoke pouring into Orange County and closing the 91 freeway, the main road into the county from the east.
The winds blowing the flames in the north of San Francisco Bay come from the north, and thousands of firefighters are building blocks to the southern flanks of the blazes to hold them back from populated areas. Supported by aircraft dropping water and fire retardant – ranging from helicopters to a Boeing 747 tanker – fire crews used bulldozers, chain saws and shovels to clear trees and brush, hoping to create firebreaks and starve the blazes of fuel
]And even the "hazardous" in places.
Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday visited the California Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) of Emergency Services near Sacramento to announce that President Trump had approved Gov.
Mr. Jerry Brown's request for a major disaster declaration and ordered federal aid to help the state in recovery efforts. Pimlott said that the cause of the fires was still unclear and would be investigated.
Fires interrupted utilities in and of the fires, around wine country, including cellular service, which ranged from spotty to nonexistent, making it harder for people to reach family and friends and for emergency workers to search for the missing. Mark Ghilarducci, director of the state Office of Emergency Services, said that about 77 cellphone sites were damaged or destroyed.
Ramon Gallegos Jr., who worked in the wine industry,
"Who's OK?" he asked. "Who's not O.K.? We do not know, we can not get in touch with anybody. "
With broad areas still under evacuation orders, frustrated residents congregate at roadblocks on Tuesday, pleading with police officers to let them through their homes .
"We're getting some chest-to-a-chest-to-a-roadblock with the Silverado Trail, the famed Napa Wine Road, a sheriff's deputy chased after a car that had bolted through a vineyard in an effort to bypass the roadblock. -chest instances now, "said John Robertson, the Napa County Sheriff.