Northern California wildfires kill at least 13
High winds turned a bad situation worse in wine country, catching fire officials and residents completely off guard; Claudia Cowan reports from Santa Rosa, California.
At least 15 people are dead and more than 200 have been reported missing as explosive, wind-whipped wildfires rage through Northern California's famed wine country, forcing fire crews to race to get the massive blazes under control.
Sonoma County spokeswoman Maggie Flemings said Tuesday afternoon about 200 missing-person reports have been lodged as family members and friends scramble to locate loved ones while wildfires ravage the region. Flemings said it's possible that most of those reported missing are safe but can't be reached because of the widespread loss of cellphone service and other communications. Officials are advising people with access to the internet to declare themselves safe on social media or contact the Red Cross.
California wildfires destroy thousands of structures and vineyards
Cal Fire officials said Tuesday morning 17 wildfires in nine counties have already burned more than 115,000 acres in the past 12 hours, and winds gusting in excess of 50 mph have caused "extreme rates of spread and volatile burning conditions."
Fire officials told Fox News there is zero percent containment on all fires. Some of the largest of the blazes burning were in Napa and Sonoma counties, home to dozens of wineries that attract tourists from around the world.
Seven deaths are related to the Tubbs Fire in Santa Clara County, while two have been killed by the Atlas Fire in neighboring Napa County, according to fire officials. Three deaths have also been reported in Mendocino County, and one in Yuba County, officials confirmed to Fox News.
Heavily-populated Santa Rosa 'torched'
This aerial photo provided by the California Highway Patrol Golden Gate Division shows some of the hundreds of homes destroyed in a wind-driven wildfire that swept through Santa Rosa. (California Highway Patrol Golden Gate Division)
Much of the damage was reported in Santa Rosa, a city of 175,000 residents in Sonoma County that saw hundreds of homes destroyed by flames so hot they melted the glass off cars.
Former San Francisco Giants pitcher Noah Lowry, who now runs an outdoor sporting goods store in Santa Rosa, told the Associated Press he was forced to flee along with his wife, two daughters and a son just over 2 weeks old, the family only having a few minutes notice.
"I can't shake hearing people scream in terror as the flames barreled down on us," Lowry said.
A home burns in Fountaingrove in Santa Rosa. (AP)
In some neighborhoods, half the homes remained untouched while, across the street, cars were charred and structures were destroyed.
One resident wearing an air mask to inspect the damage told KTVU FOX 2 she couldn't figure out why some people were spared, and some weren't.
"All the houses are untouched," she said of one side of the street. "And I come here and half the neighborhood is torched. Why, why why? Why us? This is really screwed up. It's heartbreaking. It's really heartbreaking."
Andy Luttringer, who lives in Santa Rosa, told the The San Francisco Chronicle he regretted not grabbing more of his wife’s artwork. His wife died of cancer a few years ago.
Northern California wildfires leave over 20,000 evacuated
“I’m really mad at myself,” the 62-year-old retired cop told the paper. “I could have grabbed a couple of her pieces. The rest of the stuff I couldn’t care less about.”
Hillsides throughout the city were charred from the flames and dotted with smaller fires from ruptured gas lines.
Napa couple killed in firestorm
The fast-racing flames claimed the lives of a Napa couple that recently celebrated 75 years of marriage.
Ruby Gibney told KTVU FOX 2 her grandparents, Charles — also known as Peach — and Sara Rippey, were unable to escape their home at the Silverado Resort from the Atlas fire and died in the blaze.
An American flag flies as structures burn in Coffey Park on Monday. (AP)
Gibney said her grandparent's home "was quickly ravaged by the fire" and they were unable to get out in time. "Peach and Sara are immensely loved and missed," she told KTVU.
Napa County Sheriff John Robertson said Tuesday that 100-year-old Charles Rippey and his wife, 98-year-old Sara Rippey, died inside their home.
"The only thing worse would have been if one survived without the other," Gibney said.
State of emergency in California over wildfires
Elsewhere in the famed Napa Valley, the Napa Valley Vintners said it does not have verifiable information on winery buildings that burned down or the impact the fires would have on the 2017 harvest. Workers had picked most grapes for the season before fires broke out.
Vice President Pence said during a visit to California that the federal government stands ready to provide any and all assistance to the state.
"We are standing with you," Pence said.
California Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency in Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties.
Southern California also hit by wildfires
A DC-10 aircraft drops fire retardant on a wind driven wildfire in California. (Reuters)
In Southern California, more than 5,000 homes were evacuated Monday as fire crews struggled to battle a rapidly growing brush fire.
The blaze scorched 6,000 acres and destroyed dozens of structures in Orange County, and is only five percent contained, according to FOX11.
Plumes of smoke were visible over Disneyland and officials issued air quality warnings for parts of Los Angeles County.
The Associated Press contributed to this report