Wildfires continued to engulf areas of Northern California’s wine country on Tuesday as firefighters and rescue crews worked to contain them.
Strong winds caused the flames to spread rapidly on Sunday night, producing some of the deadliest fires in the state’s history. Cooler weather and lighter winds on Tuesday will hopefully allow firefighters to control the almost completely uncontained blazes, authorities told The Associated Press.
President Donald Trump approved “a major disaster declaration” for California on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence announced during a visit to the state’s emergency management headquarters.
“Let me first say our hearts and the hearts of every American go out to the families of the 13 who’ve lost their lives,” said Pence, hours before the death toll climbed to 15. “This declaration will allow FEMA to identify, mobilize and provide additional equipment and resources to assist with the emergency.”
As of Monday night, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) had declared states of emergency in several northern counties, including Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino.
Orange County ― over 400 miles south of Napa ― was also under a state of emergency on Monday night. A brush fire burned more than 7,500 acres and forced at least 5,000 people to evacuate their homes. Roughly 25 percent of the Southern California fire had been contained as of Tuesday morning, reported the Los Angeles Times.
The fires have likely caused more destruction over a 24-hour period than the rest of this year’s “very busy” wildfire season, said Daniel Berlant, assistant deputy director for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Over 7,700 wildfires ― at least 1,500 more than last year ― have ripped through California since January, consuming roughly 780,000 acres along the way.
Most wildfires are started by people, Berlant told HuffPost, and the state’s changing climate is making them more intense and helping them spread more quickly. Despite significant rain last winter, the ground is still dry from the droughts that have hammered California over the last five years.
“Our summers are getting longer and our temperatures are getting warmer,” said Berlant, who shared some statistics about the fires. “We need residents and visitors to do everything they can to prevent sparking fires.”
Fire investigators are working to determine the cause of this week’s fires. Here are seven numbers that help put them into perspective:
At least 17 wildfires across multiple counties continued to burn on Tuesday.
At least 15 people have been killed and over 100 others injured by the fires. These numbers were expected to rise in the next few days, officials said.
Brown has declared states of emergency for eight counties: Sonoma, Napa, Yuba, Butte, Lake, Mendocino, Nevada and Orange.
Over 200 missing person reports have been filed in Sonoma County, the county sheriff’s office posted Tuesday on Facebook. Of those reported missing, 45 have been found.
Roughly 20,000 people have been evacuated from their homes.
At least 1,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed.
Over 115,000 acres have been burned since the fires broke out this weekend, a fire official said. That’s more than 87,000 football fields.
This story has been updated with the latest developments.