Fire officials say 285 people missing in wake of North Bay wildfires

(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

There are currently 285 people missing in Sonoma County in the wake of the wildfires that have ravaged the northern and eastern areas of the county, fire officials said Wednesday.

There were originally 600 reports of missing people but officials say that 315 were located safely.

The numbers had been inconsistent as authorities try to get confirmation.


The danger is far from over in wine country with shifting flames triggering new evacuations. The break firefighters got from calmer winds yesterday is over.

Fire officials have confirmed there are now 21 people who have died in these devastating fires; 11 of those are in Sonoma County alone. Nearly 88,000 acres have been burned in the six major fires, including the Tubbs Fire in Napa County which has grown to 30,000 acres.

IMPORTANT: If you know someone who was missing but no longer is please call the Sonoma County Emergency Operations Center at 707-565-3856

A Wind Advisory has been issued with gusts of more than 50 mph expected later today in the North Bay. The winds could down trees, trigger more power outages and pick up embers.

Evacuations have expanded for the wildfires. All remaining areas of Calistoga evacuation orders expanded north of Grant Street. Residents are being advised to exit the city via the Silverado Trail South to Zinfandel lane then West to SR 29 south or exit the City via SR29 south.

In Geyserville, the following areas are under a mandatory evacuation: Hwy 128 between 1922 Hwy 128 and the Russian River Nutter Rd, Sellers RD, River Rd, Fay Ranch Rd, Ridge Oaks Rd, Fox Ridge Rd, Vineyard Rd, Woodridge Rd, Deerpath Dr, Ram Hill Rd, Rockmouth Rd, Colony Rd, Lakewood Ln.

FULL LIST: North Bay fires prompt evacuations, road closures

In Sonoma County, officials issued mandatory evacuation orders for the Annadel Heights neighborhood. Evacuations have also been ordered for in Sonoma Valley for: Moon Mountain Road, Mission Way, London Way, Martin Road, Cavedale Road, and Adobe Way. Also, officials are recommending Agua Caliente residents along Hwy 12 between Agua Caliente Road and Madrone Road are ready to evacuate if necessary.

Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Napa, Sonoma Solano, Yuba, Butte, Lake, Mendocino, Nevada and Orange counties due to the effects of fires. Brown also requested a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to support the state and local response to the Northern California fires, which was approved Tuesday.

The Governor's Office of Emergency Services has activated the State Operations Center in Mather, California to its highest level and is coordinating closely with other local, state and federal emergency response officials to address all emergency management needs. More information on state and federal disaster declarations can be found here.

PHOTOS: Deadly fires burn in Napa, Calistoga areas

The wildfires already rank among the five deadliest in California history, and officials expected the death toll to increase as the scope of destruction becomes clear. At least 100 people were injured during the blazes that started Sunday night. Nearly 200 people were reported missing in Sonoma County alone.

Seventeen wildfires continued to rage Tuesday across parts of seven counties. Fire crews and other resources were being rushed in from other parts of the state and Nevada.

More than 240 members of the California National Guard helped ferry fuel to first responders because so many gas stations were without power. Guard members were also helping with medical evacuations and security at evacuation centers, said Maj. Gen. David Baldwin.
VIDEO: Napa County officials give update on wildfires
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Napa County officials give a Tuesday morning update on the deadly wildfires burning in the North Bay.

In addition to knocking out electricity, the blazes damaged or destroyed 77 cellular sites, disrupting communication services that officials were rushing to restore, said Emergency Operations Director Mark Ghilarducci.

The fires that started Sunday night moved so quickly that thousands of people were forced to flee with only a few minutes of warning. Some did not get out in time. "They burned so quickly, there was not time to notify everybody. These fires came down in the neighborhoods before people realized the fires were occurring in many cases. It was very difficult," Pimlott said.

Among the victims were 100-year-old Charles Rippey and his wife, Sara, who was 98. The couple was married for 75 years and lived at the Silverado Resort in Napa. "The only thing worse would have been if one survived without the other," their granddaughter, Ruby Gibney said.

A thick, smoky haze cloaked much of Napa and Sonoma counties, where neighborhoods hit by the fires were completely leveled. Authorities warned residents not to return to their houses for safety reasons, citing the risk of exposed electrical and gas lines and unstable structures including trees.

But many found it hard to stay away.

In the Santa Rosa suburb known as Coffey Park, Robyn Pellegrini let out a cry of grief as she approached the smoldering ruins of the duplex she shared with her husband and their 6-year-old son. Daniel Pellegrini held his wife before they went searching for something they could salvage for their child.

With bare hands, they sifted through the remains of the exterior wall, which had collapsed into dust inside the house and covered all the other debris in their boy's room. They found a stuffed animal - charred but still recognizable as a turtle. Robyn Pellegrini let out joyful gasps when they found pieces of his rock collection.

A young boy across the street, whose home was spared, brought over one of his own stuffed animals to share.

"You lose all your photos," said Tony Pellegrini, Daniel's father. "You feel like you lost a part of your life."

Officials hoped cooler weather and lighter winds would help crews get a handle on the fires.

"The weather has been working in our favor, but it doesn't mean it will stay that way," said Brad Alexander, a spokesman of the governor's Office of Emergency Services.

In Washington, President Donald Trump said he spoke with Gov. Jerry Brown to "let him know that the federal government will stand with the people of California. And we will be there for you in this time of terrible tragedy and need."

The government declared a disaster, which should give the state help putting out the flames.

More than 400 miles away from the wine-making region, flames imperiled parts of Southern California, too. Thousands of people were displaced by a wildfire that destroyed or damaged 24 structures, including homes. Hot, dry Santa Ana winds swept fire along brushy outskirts of Orange County suburbs and equestrian properties southeast of Los Angeles. More than a dozen schools were closed.

The blaze, which disrupted major commuter routes, spread over nearly a dozen square miles in less than 24 hours as a squadron of helicopters and airplanes bombarded it with water and retardant.

At the northern end of the state, some of the largest blazes were in Napa and Sonoma counties, home to dozens of wineries that attract tourists from around the world. They sent smoke as far south as San Francisco, about 60 miles (96 kilometers) away.

Sonoma County established a hotline to help families looking for missing loved ones. It's possible that many or most of the people reported missing are safe but simply cannot be reached because of the widespread loss of cellphone service and other communications.

Much of the damage was in Santa Rosa, a far larger and more developed city than usually finds itself at the mercy of a wildfire. The city is home to 175,000 people, including both the wine-country wealthy and the working class.

It was unusual for so many fires to take off at the same time. Other than the windy conditions that helped drive them all, there was no known connection between the blazes, and authorities have not cited a cause for any of them.

IMPORTANT: If you are in need of resources, shelter, or assistance please click here -- and we will continue to update this page for resources and complete updates on road closures, school closures, and evacuation orders.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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