Strong, dry winds may fan new wildfire outbreaks in California’s wine country.
Gusts of up to 80 kilometres an hour and 10% humidity are forecast for later on Wednesday and into Thursday.
At least 17 people have been killed and 2,000 homes and businesses destroyed by a dozen fires. 20,000 people have been forced to flee.
The weather had given firefighters a reprieve on Tuesday as cooler temperatures, lower winds and coastal fog let them make headway against the fires that had burned more than 130,000 acres in Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties north of San Francisco.
It is estimated 155 people are missing in Sonoma County. 45 others have been found.
State of emergency
California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency in several northern counties as well as in Orange County in Southern California.
Napa Valley Vintners, a trade group, says it is too early to assess the economic impact on Northern California’s celebrated wine country.
At least four wineries suffered “total or very significant losses” and at least nine reported damage.
Santa Rosa, wine country’s largest city, has been particularly hard-hit.
At least 11 people have been killed by the Tubbs fire. It is the deadliest California wildfire since 2003 when 15 people died in San Diego.
What they are saying
“The potential for new fires that could grow there exponentially as these fires did in such a short time period is there,” – Lynne Tolmachoff from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
“It’s like driving through a war zone,” – 22-year-old JJ Murphy describes the area around his home in the Sonoma Valley town of Glen Ellen.