California Wildfires

Fires in Southern California have now broken out in northern San Diego County, in the rural towns of Bonsall and Oceanside. The Lilac Fire has destroyed buildings and evacuations are underway.

John Sepulvado (@JohnLGC) of KQED joins Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson with the latest.

The wildfires in Northern California cut across a wide swath of the state — including dozens of school districts, hundreds of schools and hundreds of thousands of students. At one point, classes were canceled for 260,000 students in 600 schools.

And while schools are slowly coming back on line, there remain many that may not resume classes for days or even weeks.

For more than a week, Marisol Paniagua has been living at an evacuation center. She had been scheduled to pick grapes at a vineyard near the city of Santa Rosa, Calif. But that work was canceled because of the wildfires ravaging Northern California.

"It's very difficult right now because we just have a little bit of gas left in our car. That's how we are still able to drive around," said Paniagua, 37. "But the fact is, we have nothing."

One of the youngest victims in the Northern California wildfires was 14-year-old Kai Logan Shepherd of Redwood Valley. His family is trying to survive his loss, and their own injuries. His mother, father and sister were seriously burned and have undergone multiple surgeries.

Here & Now‘s Robin Young speaks with the children’s aunt, Mindi Ramos, who has started a fundraiser to help the Shepherds rebuild their life.

In Northern California, two intoxicants are king — wine and weed.

Both products drive the $3.2 billion-a-year tourism industry in Napa and Sonoma counties. But as wildfires continue to rage through the region this week, marijuana growers and winemakers are struggling to keep their crops safe.

The night before the fire overtook LeRoy and Donna Halbur, the couple had dinner at their home north of Santa Rosa, Calif., with their eldest son, Dave, his wife and their 2-year-old son. Dave Halbur remembers it as a typical Sunday dinner with his folks.

We "had Chinese food and talked. It was a really nice evening," Halbur recalls.

The fire came through a few hours later in the early morning darkness. By Monday, Dave Halbur had heard nothing from his parents. LeRoy and Donna Halbur were both 80.

Updated at 11:50 p.m. ET

Even as many of the thousands of people forced to evacuate from deadly California wildfires were being allowed to return to their homes, yet another fire has started in the Santa Cruz mountains.

Authorities said 60 people were still missing on Tuesday from the fires that have killed at least 42 people, destroyed more than 6,000 homes and burned through some 200,000 acres of the state.

The toll from the Northern California wildfires continues to mount. More than 40 people have perished. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed. Farms, cars, livelihoods, artifacts of lives lived. In times like these, sometimes the only thing people have to hold onto are the little stories of survival.

This one is about goats and one very loyal dog.

It was 1 o'clock in the morning on Oct. 9 when Claire Mollard's husband called and told her to pack up some valuables and think about evacuating their home in the Santa Rosa hills in Northern California.

Authorities are increasingly optimistic that they have turned the tide in their week-long battle against the deadliest wildfires in California's history.

Lighter winds were helping firefighters both in the air and on the ground to contain the majority of the biggest fires, and rain forecast for later in the week would further boost their efforts, NPR's David Schaper reports from Santa Rosa.

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The winds in northern California remained mostly calm over the weekend, allowing firefighters to finally get the upper hand in the battle against at least 15 wildfires. Here is Cal Fire Incident Commander Bret Gouvea.

Updated at 3:45 p.m. ET

Fire crews were starting to gain the upper hand on numerous blazes in Northern California that have killed at least 41 people and destroyed thousands of homes, but officials warned that the deadliest wildfires in the state's history were far from extinguished.

The death toll rose Monday after "a private water tender driver assigned to the Nuns Fire tragically died in a vehicle rollover on Oakville Grande in Napa County," according to Cal Fire. The driver has not yet been publicly identified.

Julayne Smithson was working an overnight shift in the Intensive Care Unit at the Kaiser Permanente hospital in Santa Rosa, Calif., when massive wildfires started racing through the city late last Sunday.

Smithson had no idea how close they were. She was too busy taking care of her patient. Then, she says, "One of the nurses came up to me and she said, 'Julayne, I'm sorry, but your house is not going to make it.'"

Updated at 8:30 p.m. ET

Some 9,000 firefighters who are working long hours with little or no rest continue to battle historically destructive Northern California wildfires that have claimed at least 40 lives, wiped out whole neighborhoods and damaged vineyards and farms in the heart of the state's wine country. In this week's fires alone, 22 people have died, the Sonoma County Coroner's office said Saturday.

The speed and ferocity of the wildfires raging through Northern California's wine country have caught many residents off guard and left state officials scrambling to contain the flames.

But for fire researchers, these devastating blazes are part of a much larger pattern unfolding across the Western United States. So far this year, fires in the U.S. have consumed more than 8.5 million acres — an area bigger than the state of Maryland.

The death toll from a series of blazes in Northern California has reached at least 31 people — making it the deadliest week for wildfires in the state's history. Officials are warning that more deaths are likely.

"We're moving into a recovery phase," Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano said. "That is the reality part of it."

Speaking late Thursday, Giordano said that two more bodies had been recovered as search teams moved into areas where people had been reported missing in the wake of the fires.

Air pollution in counties of the San Francisco Bay Area this week has been the worst since 1999 when officials began collecting data.

"The pollution is so high it's comparable to high pollution days in China," says Lisa Fasano at the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

The worst hour so far was measured on Tuesday in Napa, Calif., with an Air Quality Index of 404 for small particulate matter — so high it's off the chart, as you can see below.

Updated at 3:45 p.m. ET

The U.S. Postal Service hasn't abandoned Santa Rosa, Calif., where hundreds of people are coping with total losses of their homes from an explosive wildfire. The scene in Santa Rosa has been compared with an apocalypse — but that didn't stop a mail truck from making the rounds in at least one devastated neighborhood this week.

Updated at 6:30 p.m. ET

Thousands more people were fleeing their homes as some of the worst wildfires in California's history continued to sweep through wine country, leaving a trail of smoldering destruction and a death toll that authorities say has reached 31.

Updated at 11:40 p.m. ET

In the outbreak of powerful and destructive fires that have struck California since Sunday, there are now 22 large wildfires burning in the state. They've caused at least 23 deaths and scorched nearly 170,000 acres, officials said Wednesday.

Updated at 6:17 p.m. ET

At least 15 people have died in intense wildfires that have destroyed thousands of buildings in Northern California, where firefighters are battling 17 large blazes in the state's wine country, including Napa and Sonoma counties. Together, they've burned 115,000 acres, according to Cal Fire.

Updated at 8:08 p.m. ET.

As many as 10 people have died in wildfires that erupted in Northern California over the weekend, forcing residents in the wine country north of San Francisco to flee as homes went up in flames. At least 1,500 structures have been destroyed and 20,000 people evacuated, according to member station KQED.