Neighborhoods Destroyed, 42 People Dead As Fires Continue To Rage

Northern California wildfires are deadliest in history


Photo by Shutterstock/Public Domain

Wildfires in California broke out recently, causing people in the area to evacuate.

Natalie Pearson, Staff Reporter

Over the past week, some of the most fatal wildfires in history scorched Northern California, forcing thousands to evacuate. The largest of the deadly fires burned in Sonoma, Napa, and Mendocino counties, with flames ripping through the picturesque countryside.

A few residents were not aware of the blaze until it was right on top of them. CNN spoke to Ms. Margaret Curzon, whose family barely escaped with their lives. “It looked like we were at war,” said Curzon. “The sky was orange and there were embers falling from the sky. My father could feel the car getting hotter and hotter because the fire kept creeping up and getting closer to them,” she continued.

Others were not so fortunate. The confirmed death toll has now risen to 42 and hundreds are still missing, marking this as the deadliest wildfire in the state’s history. It is unknown what caused the wildfire at this time.

It looked like we were at war ”

— Margaret Curzon

“That would be the Santa Ana Winds,” said science teacher Mrs. Kathy Wawers. “It has to do with high pressure and low pressure. They originate when cool, dry air mass—high pressure—comes off of the mountains in California. They talk about how low the humidity is, which means very little water vapor in the air, and the speed of the winds can get really high—like, they were 50 miles per hour when the fires started, and I think gusts went up to 70 miles an hour. So anything that could spark or start a fire would very quickly spread. So that’s why it was a problem. And this type of condition—dry, windy condition—is typical in California in the fall, into the early winter. The key is dry air and wind. I don’t know if they’ve figured out the ignition source, but it could just take a lightning strike,” Wawers said.  

Firefighters are working to contain these wildfires and enough progress has been made that some families were able to return to their homes. Most discovered, though, that there was nothing left to return to. Their homes and their belongings—anything left behind was destroyed in the flames.

The state of California has since issued an alert pleading for help. 17 states offered support in the wake of this destruction. Australia also gave assistance to battle the wildfires and aid those suffering from its effects.

Officials warned that dry conditions expected over the next few days could mean that the flames will blow out of control again.

“Everyone needs to be thinking right now,” said Cal Fire chief Ken Pimlott, according to The New York Times. “What is my evacuation plan? What am I going to take with me? How am I going to get out? Be prepared to do that literally on a moment’s notice. Not a half-hour, not an hour—you need to be thinking about that in minutes.”

Six firefighters have sustained injuries fighting the fires that broke out eight days ago and continue to burn.

Natalie Pearson

Natalie became a member of the Flightline in August of 2017. She is a junior this year, involved in band. Outside of school, she enjoys watching movies and playing video games. You can email her at [email protected]