The largest fires were burning in Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties, with flames ripping through the lush, picturesque landscape.
It is too early to tell whether any of the wildfires were started by humans, said Ken Pimlott, director of Cal Fire. “All these fires are under investigation,” he told reporters, adding that his department was focusing on rescues and firefighting. But he said the chance the fires were caused by lightning was “fairly minimal.”
Officials expect the death toll to rise and high winds in coming days could complicate efforts to contain fires that have already torched 115,000 acres of land, mostly in Northern California’s wine country. Seventeen wildfires, some fanned by up to 50 mph wind gusts whipping across parched terrain loaded with tinder, have forced about 25,000 residents to evacuate and destroyed at least 2,000 homes and commercial buildings.