Northern California death toll rises to 11 as fires continue statewide

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As the number of people confirmed dead in Northern California fires rose to 11, officials are hoping that winds will lessen enough Tuesday to allow firefighters to get a handle on the fires that have ravaged upwards of 100,000 acres.

The Yuba County Sheriff’s Department confirmed late Monday night that one person in the county had died, according to Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant. The majority of the fatalities are from Sonoma County, where huge swaths of the city of Santa Rosa were leveled in flames from the Tubbs fire. Seven people have died in Sonoma County, two in Napa County and one in Mendocino County, Berlant said.

As of 7 a.m. Tuesday the two biggest blazes — the Tubbs fire and Napa County’s Atlas Peak fire — had burned 27,000 and 25,000 acres, respectively, Berlant said. Both fires were uncontained, he said.

Though our containment numbers haven’t gone up just yet we’ve at least been able to hold these fires and keep them at their current acreage,” Berlant said. The Tubbs fire grew about 2,000 acres since last night.

Some of the smaller fires had some containment as of Monday night, he said — the 2,500-acre Sulphur fire in Lake County was 10% contained and the 2,000-acre 37 fire in Sonoma County was 15% contained.

About 20,000 people evacuated their homes Sunday night and Monday, and there were additional evacuations in the Tubbs fire and in Yuba County overnight, Berlant said.

Red flag warnings in effect throughout much of Northern California have expired as of Tuesday morning, Berlant said. Winds of up to 50 mph Sunday night had helped spread flames.

“Overnight the wind that had fanned these fires had really decreased, and that gave us an opportunity to really take a stand against these fires,” Berlant said early Tuesday. “We are again today hoping to see very little wind compared to Sunday.”

But the cool and quiet of night did not completely stymie the progress of the Atlas fire, which stretched across the hills east of Napa, and sparked a daisy chain of more fires to the west.

“They continue to move. They were moving all night,” burning more structures in their wake, Cal Fire incident commander Kevin Lawson said Tuesday morning.

The Atlas fire is now moving down the east side of the ridge into Solano County and threatening those living in Green Valley. The Patrick fire southwest of Napa was pushing toward heavily populated areas, and emergency planners warned that the fire threatened to grow even more.

A few miles north, the community of Glen Ellen continued to be threatened by the Nuns fire burning in the Mayacamas Mountains.

Fire behavior specialist Jon Heggie told crews heading out to the fire line at dawn Tuesday to be prepared for the fires to turn north and east into dry brush “with 80 to 90% probability of ignition.”

As of about 7:30 p.m. Monday, the 16 fires in Northern California had burned upwards of 100,000 acres and destroyed at least 1,500 homes, businesses and other structures.

Several thousand firefighters from across the state are battling the blazes, and some strike teams from Southern California have been sent up north, Berlant said. The California National Guard has deployed six additional helicopters to aid in firefighting efforts.

And evacuees will not be able to return to their homes just yet. Read more

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