Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Wildfires California

A firefighter walks near a pool as a neighboring home burns in the Napa wine region in California on Monday, as multiple wind-driven fires continue to whip through the region. (Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

'An Inferno Like You've Never Seen': Deadly Wildfires Ravage California

The "unprecedented" fires, fulfilling predictions of climate scientists, have forced tens of thousands from their homes

Jake Johnson

More than ten people have been killed, thousands have been left without power, and tens of thousands have been forced to evacuate as more than a dozen wildfires tore through Northern California overnight Monday, forcing Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency in eight counties.

"It was like Armageddon. Every branch of every tree was on fire."
—Mike Turpen, California resident

"Presently, these fires continue their path of destruction," Brown said in a statement late Monday. "Many residents had little time to flee due to the fires' rapid and erratic rate of spread through the rural terrain. Tragically, these fires have already taken lives and emergency responders anticipate the number of fatalities could grow."

Brown also asked President Donald Trump—who spent his morning tweeting insults at ESPN host Jemele Hill and the NFL—to issue a disaster declaration.

At least eighteen total wildfires have been counted, and firefighters have struggled to contain the inferno as powerful winds Monday night rapidly pushed the flames from rural areas into cities. As the Wall Street Journal reports, at least 2,000 homes and businesses have been destroyed, along with schools, grocery stores, and community centers.

"Essentially, we are in a mode of saving lives and getting people out of harm's way at the moment," one firefighter said in an interview Monday night.

The fires, which began Sunday night, have already been characterized as "among the most destructive in state history." Environmentalist and author Bill McKibben described one image that emerged from Napa Valley as akin to "a city after a bombing."

"It was like Armageddon," California resident Mike Turpen told Yahoo News. "Every branch of every tree was on fire."

Another resident, speaking with USA Today, said the fires are "an inferno like you've never seen before. Trees were on fire like torches."

Amy Head, fire captain spokesperson for Cal Fire, a state agency tasked with fire protection, told the Guardian that the fires are "unprecedented," even in a state that often experiences multiple wildfires simultaneously.

"I hate using that word because it's been overused a lot lately because of how fires have been in the past few years, but it truly is—there's just been a lot of destruction," Head concluded.

"More dangerous wildfires and longer spells of drought have long been predicted among the many devastating impacts of climate change."
—Cody Fenwick, Napa Valley Patch

Many have warned in the aftermath of intense wildfires that the effects of climate change are likely to intensify such devastating events, and similar concerns were issued Monday as the fires continued to spread relatively unconstrained.

"More dangerous wildfires and longer spells of drought have long been predicted among the many devastating impacts of climate change," notes Cody Fenwick of the local Napa Valley Patch. "Research published last year has borne out these predictions, finding that about half the increase in damage from wildfires since the 1970s could be attributed to climate change."

Local authorities said Monday that it is unclear what initially set off the fires, but noted that exceptionally dry conditions coupled with strong wings have allowed the fires to spread quickly.

As the fires raged overnight, horrifying videos and images spread on social media and firefighters expressed doubt that they will be able to "get in front" of the flames any time soon.

(Image credit: The Guardian)


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Buddhist Monk and Peace Activist Thích Nhất Hạnh Dead at 95

"He inspired so many good people to dedicate themselves to working for a more just and compassionate world."

Jessica Corbett ·


Draft Order Shows Trump Considered Using Military to Seize Voting Machines

"This was part of the records that Trump was fighting to keep from the January 6th committee," one government watchdog noted.

Brett Wilkins ·


Groups Warn US Lawmakers Against Fueling 'New Cold War' With China

A policy of hostility toward Beijing, says a global justice advocate, has "become a convenient excuse for pushing a corporate, militarist agenda."

Jessica Corbett ·


Democracy 'On the Line' Says Bowman After Protest Arrest

"I will not stand by and I will not stay quiet while the fate of our democracy continues to hang loosely by a thread that the Senate is hellbent on tearing apart."

Julia Conley ·


To 'Hold Her Accountable for What She Did,' Primary Sinema Project Gets Into Gear

"Kyrsten Sinema is unfit to be a United States senator," the project asserts. "Just like the filibuster itself, we need to get rid of her if we want to save our democracy before it's too late."

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo