California’s deadly wildfires have killed at least 32 people, left 100s missing and devastated neighborhoods

Firefighters are facing dry and windy conditions as they battle California’s deadliest wildfires that authorities say have killed at least 32 people, left hundreds missing and devastated entire neighborhoods in California.

Intensified by strong winds and low humidity, the 17 wildfires as of today have charred more than 221,754 acres of land, forced more than 20,000 residents to evacuate and damaged or destroyed at least 3,500 homes and other structures, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The decreased number of blazes from 21 Thursday reflects the merging of several fires while three have been completely contained.

Santa Rosa, a city in Sonoma County known for its wineries, was among the hardest hit areas, with at least 2,834 homes destroyed. Critical infrastructure was also lost in the flames, including the city’s fire station, Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey said at a news conference Thursday afternoon.

A total of 3,900 people are being housed in 43 shelters, said Mark Ghilarducci, director of California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

The cause of the fires is still under investigation. But, officials believe that significant progress has been made in the last 24 hours.

Google Earth || California Highway Patrol/EPA
More than half the deaths from the fires occurred in Sonoma County alone, authorities said. Taken together, the death toll exceeds the number of fatalities in the 1933 Griffith Park Fire in Los Angeles, the deadliest wildfire in California’s history, killing 29.Authorities said an alert system put in place gave residents ample time to evacuate and likely prevented many deaths.

“We have a subscription service where we can alert our residents, and we did that right away, trying to notify everybody where the fire was, where it was going and how fast it was going, and I think it saved a lot of lives,” Sonoma County Sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Crum told ABC News in an interview Tuesday.

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