14 Oct 2017

California disaster: NZer records wildfire wasteland

4:34 pm on 14 October 2017

A New Zealander in California has described the "apocalyptic scene" after the wildfires that left destruction in their path.

Destruction after the wildfires swept through Sonoma Valley, Califonia.

Destruction after the wildfires in Sonoma Valley, Northern California. Photo: Supplied / Robett Hollis

The fires raging since Sunday have killed 36 people and destroyed at least 5700 homes and other buildings.

With more than 250 people missing, officials expect the toll to rise.

Much of the devastation is centred in and around the Sonoma County town of Santa Rosa, where whole neighbourhoods were reduced to grey ash and smouldering ruins.

Aucklander Robett Hollis was in the East Bays area, north of San Francisco, with his wife and his newborn baby.

He said he had never seen so much destruction.

Robett Hollis

Robett Hollis said he had never seen such destruction Photo: Supplied / Robett Hollis

On Tuesday morning, he sent supplies to his brother-in-law, a firefighter battling blazes near Sonoma.

He and his family then fled the "utter chaos".

"As far as the eye could see when we went through, there was pretty much no homes, nothing, just flattened to the ground," he said.

"No structures, no foundation, the wheels of the car had melted into ... metal lying on the ground.

"I was looking at a couple of thousand homes just disappear.

"And the speed of it - I just don't see any way that a lot of those people, especially the elderly ... would have had a chance to get out."

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Photo: Supplied / Robett Hollis

Mr Hollis said cars were left parked on the road as motorists tried and escape the blaze.

When the fires first broke out, it was "an apocalyptic scene".

"People couldn't get gas, there was just fist fights for gas pumps, the whole thing was just carnage.

"There was some looting as well."

The Aucklander and his family are now taking refuge in Santa Cruz.

Fire damage is seen from the air in the Coffey Park neighborhood in Santa Rosa, California.

The Coffey Park neighbourhood in Santa Rosa, California, seen from the air. Photo: AFP / Elijah Nouvelage

A view of San Francisco gulf as smoke covers the sun as a wildfire from the Santa Rosa and Napa Valley moves through the area in California.

Smoke from the wildfires in California Photo: AFP / TAYFUN COSKUN / ANADOLU AGENCY

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