At least 10 people were killed and 100 more were killed, destroying 1,500 houses and businesses and sending thousands of people to flee, while flames raged in upscale resorts, grocery stores and walled neighborhoods trees.
The fires broke out almost simultaneously and exploded during the night, causing the residents to flee as the embers fell and the flames raged around them. Two hospitals in Santa Rosa, the largest city in the region with 175,000 people, were forced to evacuate patients.
Later in the day, fires from broken gas lines dot the smoky landscapes of the blackened hills of Santa Rosa. Fire trucks ran by smoking the landscaping in search of higher priorities.
The flames were fickle in some corners of the city. A hillside house remained unscathed while a dozen surrounding it were destroyed. One of the houses that was reduced to ashes had a Mercedes Benz in the garage. Two cars parked across the street were not touched.
The vast majority of the injured were treated for smoke inhalation, according to St. Joseph Health, which operates hospitals in the Santa Rosa area. Two were in critical condition and one was in a serious condition. The number of casualties is expected to increase as information arrives for all other areas affected by the state’s fire storm.
The flames were unforgiving through Santa Rosa, burning block after block with little to save. Residents who gathered in emergency shelters and grocery stores were shocked by the speed and ferocity of the flames. They recalled all the possessions they had left and were lost.
“I’ll never see him again,” said Jeff Okrepkie, who fled his neighborhood of Santa Rosa, knowing that it was probably the last time he would see his house for the last five years.
In the urgency of leaving, Mr. Okrepkie and his wife were able to gather important documents, photos and memories, such as letters from the late father of his wife. Yet Mr. Okrepkie was tortured by the things he left behind, including a framed photo of his grandfather that his grandmother had taken with her for a decade after his death.