Death toll rises in California as wildfires worsen

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A helicopter flies through the smokey sky to drop a load of water on a wildfire Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, in Sonoma, Calif. Officials say progress is being made in some of the largest wildfires burning in Northern California but that the death toll is almost sure to surge. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

The death toll is climbing in northern California, where wildfires continue to burn.  At least 29 have died from the fires, and hundreds of people are still missing. Firefighters are trying to contain the multiple blazes, which could become the deadliest in California history.

CGTN’s Mark Niu reports.

In a disaster filled with tragic moments, some progress finally emerged courtesy of a change in the weather– the fierce winds predicted to arrive never materialized.

But the region is by no means in the clear.

“All those grasses and all that fuel is still abundant when it was drought season, and all the grasses will then come into season and then they die off,” said David Clark, the Information Officer for CAL FIRE. “So we have a lot of light flashing fuels, and they cause a lot of rapid growth in fires.”

The two biggest fires are in what’s known as Wine Country—Sonoma County and Napa County—the place the first fire is believed to have started.

The fear of quick-spreading fires did force new evacuations overnight, including all 5,000 residents living in the city of Calistoga.

 “We just took whatever we saw and then we called our family members, and we left,” Ashley Clavel, a Calistoga resident said.

At one shelter at Napa Valley College, there was some relief when fire officials said they had set up a successful perimeter protecting the city.

Esmeralda Gil, a resident of Calistoga, feels lucky to have had an advanced warning from her brother, who’s a firefighter.

“We were woken up right when the fire was getting near to the mountains up there,” said Gil.