California Wildfire Deaths Spike to 29 as Blazes Continue to Grow

Smoke rises over a vineyard as the Glass Fire burns in Calistoga, Calif. (AP Photo / Noah Berger)

(CN) — Wildfires continued their hellish march across much of California on Wednesday, and officials now confirm at least 29 people have been killed in recent weeks as search and rescue crews undertake the grim task of sifting through rubble and ash looking for remains.

On Wednesday, Shasta County Sheriff Eric Magrini announced the fourth death in Zogg Fire burning west of Redding in the north part of the state. The fire grew to over 52,000 acres in just three days.

“It’s unfortunate, my condolences go out to a fourth death that we’ve had as a result of this,” Margini said in a press conference. The cause of the fire remains under investigation and it is just 7% contained.

To the south, the Glass Fire has burned over 48,000 acres and destroyed homes in Napa and Sonoma counties. At least 19 of the region’s famed wineries have been damaged or destroyed in the blaze, which is just 2% contained as of Wednesday according to Cal Fire.

Wednesday was concerning for firefighters in the area as the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for the entire region, meaning the fire activity in both counties could ramp up as the day unfolds. 

“This wind even is serious enough that everyone should pay attention,” said Santa Rosa Fire Chief Tony Gossner during a press conference. 

The fire looms near towns at the northern end of the Napa Valley, particularly Calistoga. 

Calistoga, a quaint wine town right on the interface between the valley draped with vineyards to the south and undeveloped forest to the north, is entirely evacuated as of Thursday. 

Mark Brunton, a fire chief with Cal Fire, said the Glass Fire continues to threaten 22,000 homes. It has already burned down 80 homes. 

Firefighters have not reported any fatalities from the incident.

The cause remains under investigation. 

In all, fire crews are working 30 major fires up and down the Golden State.

The Creek Fire in Fresno County has burned over 307,000 acres and destroyed over 800 structures in the Sierra National Forest. It is 44% contained.

In Siskiyou County, the Slater Fire has burned over 154,000 acres in Klamath National Forest region. Two deaths have been reported by the U.S. Forest Service.

Since the beginning of this year, 8,100 wildfires have burned nearly 4 million acres and destroyed 7,200 structures across California, according to Cal Fire.

As of Wednesday, 17,000 firefighters are battling fires across California and the West Coast.

Five of the top six largest fires in recorded California history have all occurred in 2020, including the August Complex which has burned nearly 1 million acres across five counties.

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