The California Wildfires Have Killed At Least 40 People, With One Blaze Becoming The Most Destructive In The State’s History

Getty Image

Late last week, California officials determined that the rising death toll of the continuing fire outbreak qualified it as the deadliest in the state’s history. The official death toll has since doubled — the LA Times reports that the number is now at least 40 — as firefighters are still battling against the worst possible conditions. It’s also understood that the number of dead could significantly jump once communications improve, for hundreds still remain missing.

Not only has the death toll broken state records, the wildfires have also consumed nearly 6,000 buildings over the past week. This news led to a New York Times analysis that determined that the Tubbs fire (near Santa Rosa), which has decimated at least 5,000 structures, has now grown to be the most destructive blaze in the state’s history. Even worse, the Tubbs fire isn’t expected to be contained until at least October 20.

Still, the LA Times notes that even a 10% containment rate on many fires hasn’t deterred emergency workers. Daily high temperatures in the 80s, low humidity, and persistent Diablo winds mean the fight must continue:

More than 10,000 firefighters from California and other states are fighting the fires in Northern California, said Dave Teter of the California Dpeartment of Forestry and Fire Protection, and officials are readying more crews in Southern California, where red flag warnings are in place through Sunday.

Firefighting efforts include 880 fire engines, 134 bulldozers, 224 hand crews and 138 water tenders, Teter said. At first light Saturday, 14 helicopters were in the air conducting water drops.

The National Weather Service has warned that, even as these containment strategies are undertaken, wind gusts from 35-45 mph could spawn even more fires, which would spread as rapidly as the 20+ that currently exist.

This auto-updating Google map shows the current locations of the blazes.

(Via LA Times, New York Times, Washington Post & National Weather Service)