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California wildfires: "This is hell"

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California wildfires: "This is hell"
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Firefighters are battling to contain wildfires in Northern California.

15 separate blazes have killed at least ten people and destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses.

Fanned by high temperatures and dry conditions, the 15 fires broke out over the weekend and spread to cover an estimated 73,000 acres.

Efforts to control the fires, which are sweeping through the state’s world-famous wine country, are being helped by more favourable weather conditions.

How many people have been evacuated from their homes?

Around 20,000 since Sunday. More than 100 people have reportedly been treated for fire-related injuries including burns and smoke inhalation.

How bad is the damage?

About 1,500 homes and commercial buildings have been destroyed, according to officials.

State of emergency

Schools and colleges near the wildfires canceled Tuesday’s classes. Two hospitals in Sonoma County were forced to evacuate.

California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Napa, Sonoma and five other counties.

That included Orange County in Southern California. On Monday, a wildfire destroyed at least half a dozen homes in the affluent Anaheim Hills neighbourhood, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of residents.

What about the grape harvest?

The largest fires struck in Napa and Sonoma counties, the heartland of California’s wine industry.

The status of the grape crop currently being harvested is not yet clear.

In addition to potential damage to vineyards from the fire itself, experts say sustained exposure to heavy smoke can taint unpicked grapes.

Fred Oliai, the owner of the Alta Napa Valley Winery, says winemakers are nervous.

“You can’t see anything, the smoke is very dense. We got our grapes in last week but others still have grapes hanging.”

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NBC NightlyNews (@NBCNightlyNews) 8 octobre 2017