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California fires burn at least 1,500 buildings, force evacuations

Ten people have been killed and at least 1,500 homes and buildings destroyed so far in one of the most destructive fire emergencies in California history.

The fast-moving wildfires raged across several counties in the northern part of the state on Monday, killing at least 10 people, forcing the evacuation of up to 20,000 people and destroying 1,500 buildings.

Firefighters in the state are battling blazes in the counties of Napa, Sonoma, Lake, Mendocino, Yuba, Nevada, Calaveras and Butte.

Janet Upton, a deputy director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said that at least 15 separate fires across the region had destroyed an estimated 1,500 homes and businesses and had burned over 73,000 acres since late Sunday night, The New York Timesreported.

Santa Rosa, a city of 175,000 people, was a virtual ghost town from side to side, with most businesses shuttered.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports, residents in the hardest-hit areas described fleeing for their lives in the middle of the night from the fire, in cars or on foot, amid a disaster that stood as another stark reminder of the intense peril of wildfires in dry California.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Director Ken Pimlott told the Associated Press that an estimated 20,000 people in the northern part of the state had been evacuated.

The fire chief said numerous people have been injured and a number of residents were reported missing. The chief said firefighters have been focusing their efforts on saving lives rather than trying to stop the blazes.

California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Napa and Sonoma as well as fire-struck Yuba County, seeking to streamline aid for firefighting and recovery. He said the blazes, which blanketed much of the Bay Area in smoke, were “really serious,” but added, “We are on it.”

The National Weather Service said strong wind gusts and low humidity have contributed to the wildfires. The winds are expected to subside midday.

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