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17 dead, 2000 buildings destroyed — California deadly wildfires

17 dead, 2000 buildings destroyed — California deadly wildfires

California has a long history of violent, damaging wildfires.

"If I knew this was going to happen, maybe those 45 minutes I spent trying to put the fire down, I should've just grabbed all the belongings", Garnica said.

Authorities in the cities of Anaheim, which includes Anaheim Hills, and Orange ordered hundreds of residents to evacuate.

With fires advancing from several sides in Sonoma Valley, law enforcement officers on loan from other areas of Northern California barred residents of evacuated communities from returning to see how the homes and businesses had fared.

"We have unprecedented levels of smoke and particles in the air that we normally don't see", said Ralph Borrmann, a spokesman for the district.

"We are extremely lucky that our sister winery, Madrone Estate at Valley of the Moon is still standing, however many of their neighbours were not so fortunate", said Tony Stewart, proprietor of Quails' Gate Winery in Kelowna. As the fires grow, officials voiced concern that separate blazes would merge into even larger infernos.

With winds expected to continue blowing smoke from the fires to populated areas this weekend, many schools decided to close Friday and organizers canceled weekend events, including an Oktoberfest in Walnut Creek and a fitness festival and half marathon in San Francisco.

"We are literally looking at explosive vegetation", Pimlott said. The 27-year-old iron worker's home in Coffey Park and all his tools were destroyed in the wildfire on Monday. Countless emergency vehicles hurried toward the flames, sirens blaring, as evacuees sped away after jamming possessions into their cars and filling their gas tanks.

More than half of the deaths occurred in Sonoma County alone, officials said. Until now, the efforts have focused on "life safety" rather than extinguishing the blazes, partly because the flames were shifting with winds and targeting new communities without warning.

Fires were "burning faster than firefighters can run, in some situations", Emergency Operations Director Mark Ghilarducci said.

In Southern California, cooler weather and moist ocean air helped firefighters gain ground against a wildfire that has scorched nearly 14 square miles.