An enormous blaze that has consumed over 100,000 acres of land in California’s wine country and has killed at least 15 people – with the death toll only expected to rise in coming days – may finally begin to die down on Tuesday thanks to slowing winds.
On Monday, 50 to 60 mph gusts stoked wildfires across the North Bay Area, where at least three counties affected by the fires are situated, the Washington Post reported. By Tuesday, wind speeds had dropped down to single digits and are not expected to rise above 20 mph for the rest of the week, with temperatures remaining in the lower to mid-70s.
“That’s given us a good opportunity to make progress on these fires,” said Daniel Berlant, assistant deputy director for Cal Fire. “We’re hoping to continue to see less and less wind and cooler temperatures. That combination is a welcome sight compared to what we dealt with just 24 hours ago.”
Nine people have died in Sonoma County, where about 45 of roughly 200 people reported missing have been found. An elderly couple died in Napa County after their caretaker was not able to reach them in time, three people were killed in Mendocino County, and one person was killed in Yuba County near Sacramento.
A whopping 17 wildfires have destroyed at least 2,000 homes and business, with the bulk of the devastation concentrated in Northern California’s Wine Country. Roughly 25,000 people have been evacuated and 5,000 are housed in shelters, while those who ignored mandatory evacuation orders are plagued by thick smoke and could see the fire turn in their direction.
“This is really serious. It’s moving fast,” said Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday during a news conference. “The heat, the lack of humidity and the winds are all driving a very dangerous situation and making it worse. It’s not under control by any means. But we’re on it in the best way we know how.”
On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence announced that the federal government would grant California additional funding to fight the wildfires, with Congress set to consider legislation next week that earmarks $576 million for wildfire suppression.
While Brown has remained one of President Donald Trump’s most vocal critics, he set politics aside to ask Trump for federal emergency aid.
In a five-page letter to the president, Brown wrote that he “determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that an effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments and supplemental federal assistance is necessary.”