10 Oct 2017

California wildfires destroy 1500 buildings

10:08 am on 10 October 2017

Parts of California's wine region are being ravaged by fast-spreading fires that have destroyed hundreds of homes and forced mass evacuations.

no caption

The flames destroyed cars and homes in Napa, California. Photo: AFP

About 20,000 people have fled from Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties after three fires broke out across the area renowned for its vineyards.

At least one person has died as the fires spread rapidly, according to local media.

The governor of California declared an emergency as fire-fighters battled to control the wild blazes.

"These fires have destroyed structures and continue to threaten thousands of homes, necessitating the evacuation of thousands of residents," the declaration said.

The head of California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Kim Pimlott, said about 1500 buildings had already been destroyed.

Firefighters douse flames as a home burns in the Napa wine region.

A home burning in the Napa wine region of California. Photo: AFP

It's not yet known how the fires started on Sunday night.

Napa County's fire chief warned conditions were hindering firefighting efforts, as further resources were brought in from across the state.

Local media reported that one person died in Mendocino County when thousands of acres burned in one valley. Further injuries have been reported and others are said to be missing.

Dozens of vineyard workers were reportedly airlifted to safety overnight.

The fires are particularly fast-spreading because of the combination of high winds, low humidity and hot, dry weather.

The National Weather Service issued a warning for the San Francisco area that "any fires that develop will likely spread rapidly".

Officials say at least 44,000 acres have already been destroyed.


A marquee burning on a golf course at the Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa.

A marquee burning on a golf course at the Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa. Photo: AFP

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs