Thousands flee as wildfires ravage California; at least 15 killed

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

(Via ABC News)

Massive wildfires sweeping through parts of California have killed at least 15 people and damaged more than 1,500 residences and other buildings, according to authorities.

Firefighters were battling 17 fires across multiple counties in the state as of late Monday, authorities said. Intensified by strong winds, the fires charred about 115,000 acres of land, destroyed at least 1,500 buildings and forced nearly 20,000 residents to evacuate.

St. Joseph Health said about 170 patients have been treated, many for burns and smoke inhalation, at three of its hospitals, including two in Sonoma County, where at least seven people died of fire-related injuries. Authorities have 183 unresolved missing person reports, according to one Sonoma County official.

Officials with the California Highway Patrol described one of the dead as an elderly woman who was blind and hard of hearing, according to ABC’s San Francisco station, KGO. The woman was found dead in the driveway of her home in Santa Rosa, according to the officials, who suspected that she was trying to escape the flames when she died.

Details on the other victims have not been released yet.

Two of the largest fires, dubbed the Tubbs and Atlas fires by authorities, burned a combined 52,000 acres of land in Sonoma and Napa counties.

In Anaheim, 1,000 firefighters were mobilized to fight a blaze that burned an estimated 6,000 acres and destroyed at least 24 homes and businesses. At least 3,000 residents were evacuated in and around Anaheim, and more than 5,000 structures were threatened by the flames.

California Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties.

With the flames sweeping through communities, some area hospitals have been evacuated. Evacuations were also issued for surrounding counties that are under threat, according to the Napa Valley Sheriff’s Office.

Many residents have been warned not to return to their homes until further notice.

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