New wildfires scorch wine country near San Francisco
St. Helena, Calif. — California firefighters battled destructive new wildfires in wine country north of San Francisco Monday as strong winds fanned flames in the already badly scorched state.
The new fires erupted Sunday in the famed Napa-Sonoma wine region and in far Northern California’s Shasta County, forcing hasty evacuations of neighborhoods.
Flames engulfed the distinctive Chateau Boswell Winery north of St. Helena, The Black Rock Inn in the small community of St. Helena and multiple homes in the city of Santa Rosa, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Residents of a senior home were among those evacuated.
The Adventist Health St. Helena hospital suspended care and transferred all patients elsewhere, according to a statement on its website.
The wine country inferno began with the Glass Fire at 3:50 a.m. Sunday and two subsequent fires merged with it, burning 17 square miles as of early Monday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire. More than 8,500 homes and other buildings were threatened.
The wine country has been scarred by terrible fires in recent years, including the 2017 Tubbs Fire that killed 22 people and destroyed more than 5,600 homes and other buildings.
Numerous studies in recent years have linked bigger wildfires in America to global warming from the burning of coal, oil and gas, especially because climate change has made California much drier. A drier California means plants are more flammable.
Evacuations were also ordered in Shasta County as the Zogg Fire spread over 23 square miles. Residences are widely scattered in the forested area, about 10 miles southwest of the city of Redding in a region torched just two years ago by the massive and deadly Carr Fire — infamously remembered for producing a huge tornado-like fire whirl.
The causes of the new fires were under investigation.
The fires erupted as a giant ridge of high pressure settled over the West, producing powerful gusts blowing from the interior toward the coast while slashing humidity levels and raising temperatures, making vegetation ready to burn.
During the weekend, Pacific Gas & Electric turned off electricity to targeted areas where the winds raised the potential for arcing or other power equipment damage that could spark new fires. The utility's equipment has caused previous disasters, including the 2018 Camp Fire that devastated the Sierra Nevada foothills town of Paradise and killed 85 people.
So far this year, more than 8,100 California wildfires have scorched 5,780 square miles, destroyed more than 7,000 buildings and killed 26 people.
Most of the losses occurred after a frenzy of dry lightning strikes in mid-August ignited a massive outbreak of fires.
Fire worries were also developing Monday across Southern California although it was unclear how strong predicted Santa Ana winds would be. Heat and extreme dryness were expected to be problematic nonetheless.
Conditions were also hot, dry and windy in parts of Arizona, where the Sears Fire in Tonto National Forest north of Phoenix has grown to more than 14 square miles (36 square kilometers) since it erupted Friday afternoon. Authorities reported zero containment.