At least 10 people have been reported dead, while hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed in a spate of wildfires that swept through California’s wine country on Monday.
Some 20,000 people have also been chased from their dwellings by the wildfire, reports Reuters.
State officials say the deaths marked the first wildfire-related fatalities in California this year, and are believed to represent the largest loss of life from a single incident or cluster blazes in the state in about a decade.
The incident has attracted declaration of a state of emergency by Governor Jerry Brown for Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties, encompassing some of the state’s prime wine-making areas, as the blazes raged unchecked and engulfed the region in thick, billowing smoke that drifted south into the San Francisco Bay area.
He later extended the declaration to include four more northern California counties and Orange County in Southern California.
Sonoma County bore the brunt of the fatalities, with seven fire-related deaths confirmed there, according to the sheriff’s department. Two others died in Napa County and one more in Mendocino County, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire).
Details on the circumstances of those deaths were not immediately available from either CalFire or local officials. But KGO-TV in San Francisco, citing unnamed California Highway Patrol officials, described one of the victims as a blind, elderly woman found dead in the driveway of her home in Santa Rosa, a town in Sonoma County.
Two hospitals were forced to evacuate in Sonoma County, state officials said.