23 dead, over 100 missing in Northern California wildfires

AUTHORITIES confirmed 23 deaths, at least 180 people are injured, and over 100 reported missing in Northern California's wildfires.

The sheriff's office in Sonoma County, where most of the deaths have occurred, said Wednesday night, October 11, the toll there has reached 13. The other 10 deaths are dispersed across three other counties.

The massive complex of blazes burned 265 square miles since breaking out almost simultaneously on Sunday night, October 8.

The wildfires destroyed at least 3,500 homes and businesses.

The last remaining evacuation order has been lifted as firefighters continue to make progress in their battle against a Southern California wildfire that destroyed 23 buildings, including some homes.

People were returning to an Orange neighborhood on Wednesday evening.

A day earlier, thousands of people who had to flee the blaze Monday night were allowed to return as winds that fueled the blaze calmed.

As of Wednesday night, the blaze was 60 percent contained after burning some 9,000 acres of brush and grass — nearly 14 ½ square miles of devastation.

Authorities are hoping that cooler, more humid weather will allow them to fully surround the blaze by Sunday.

Authorities in Northern California said they are poring through the list of hundreds reported missing amid fierce wildfires and working through the cases one at a time.

Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano said Wednesday night that investigators are starting at shelters looking for evacuees and working their way back to people's homes to see if they got out alive.

While many if not most of those reported missing have simply been unable to communicate with loved ones, authorities say the death toll is bound to grow.

The series of fires is already among the worst in California history, and high winds expected to arrive overnight could light them up even more.

State fire Chief Ken Pimlott said it's "going to continue to get worse before it gets better."

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Chief Ken Pimlott said close to 8,000 firefighters have been deployed and are fighting the blazes by air and on the ground.

Pimlott added Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, and Washington are sending firefighters and the US Forest Service is sending fire engines, bulldozers, and hand crews.

He also said there are concerns several fires could merge into one big blaze. The fires north of San Francisco are among the deadliest in California history.

The blazes have also left at least 180 people injured and have destroyed more than 3,500 homes and businesses. More than 4,400 people were staying in shelters Wednesday.

California Governor Jerry Brown warned that catastrophic wildfires will keep ripping through the state as the climate warms.

Brown told reporters Wednesday that more people are living in communities close to forests and brush that easily ignite because of dry weather.

Blazes burning in Northern California have become some of the deadliest in state history.

The governor said a warming climate has contributed to catastrophic wildfires and that they will continue to happen.

The governor, who's positioned himself as a leader in the fight against climate change, said residents and officials have to be prepared and do everything they can to mitigate the problem.

Brown said the federal government has pledged assistance but points out resources also are going to hurricane recovery efforts in Texas and Florida. (AP)

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