The death toll rose to 23 on Wednesday night from the rapidly spreading firestorm in California wine country as firefighters were battling the return of dangerous winds that sparked new evacuations, authorities said, Los Angeles Times reported.
All residents of Calistoga and Geyserville were ordered to leave their homes as firefighters braced for a tough fight overnight on numerous fronts of the fires. About 8:20 p.m., mandatory evacuations were also issued for parts of eastern Sonoma Valley, including Castle Road and 7th Street East north of Lovall Valley Road.
Napa city officials issued evacuation advisories for neighborhoods along the eastern edges of the city, warning residents to be prepared to leave. Just before 9 p.m., Santa Rosa police also issued an evacuation advisory for neighborhoods in the city’s eastern end, while other neighborhoods along the north end of the city are under mandatory evacuation orders.
“The fire is not an imminent threat, but the conditions may change quickly,” police said.
In Sonoma County alone, 25,000 people have evacuated, county spokesman Scott Alonso said late Wednesday.
“If there’s been a mandatory evacuation, you cannot go home,” Alonso said. “The area is unsafe.”
Meanwhile, Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies are working to track down 285 out of 600 people reported missing. The rest — 315 people — have already been found safe. Alonso asked people to notify officials if they have found their missing loved ones.
Power remained out at 40,000 homes across the county.
A red flag warning forecasting dangerous fire conditions took effect Wednesday evening in the Bay Area. Weather officials expect strong winds with gusts as high as 50 mph. Combined with dry fuels and low humidity, fires have the potential to spread quickly, according to the National Weather Service.
The warning took effect at 5 p.m. in the North Bay Mountains and will take effect at 11 p.m. in the East Bay Hills, Santa Cruz Mountains and mountains in Monterey and San Benito counties.
“It’s a good heads-up to all the firefighters and emergency management that the conditions are going to be pretty bad in terms of the fire behaviors,” said Will Pi, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “We’re expecting the strongest winds to be tonight and tomorrow morning.”