Fires that began Sunday night in California's Napa County are still spreading, with more than 50,000 acres in flames in less than 24 hours. According to The New York Times, one person has died so far.
The Atlas and Tubbs fires, the two main culprits, have each spread to 25,000 acres, with other smaller fires burning as well—14 in all. The first started at Atlas Peak around 9:20 p.m. Sunday.
The local office of the National Weather Service released a "red flag warning" for critical fire conditions early Monday morning in effect until 5 a.m. local time Tuesday. "Warm temperatures, low humidity and locally strong winds will coincide with critically dry fuels," it states, and "any fires that develop will likely spread rapidly." The winds have been improving somewhat over the course of the day.
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The state has opened 11 evacuation centers, although three are already full—20,000 people have evacuated so far. The California Highway Patrol reports about 20 road closures and that it has already rescued 42 people from the fires. According to NPR, the fires have destroyed 1,500 structures. Patients were evacuated from two hospitals in Santa Rosa.
Authorities won't know what caused the fires until they have time to conduct an investigation, but human activity is responsible for about 95 percent of California's fires.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, people have been reporting smoke from the Napa Valley fires as far away as San Francisco Bay, and the smoke clouds are large enough to show up on weather radar images. Wildfires throughout the West earlier this year caused smoke to pass across the entire U.S.
Most of California's west coast was flagged for significant wildland fire potential this month by the U.S. National Interagency Fire Center. This year has been predicted to include a bad fire season, in part because of earlier wet weather that let plants grow, creating what would dry out to become fuel. Climate change hasn't helped either: Fire seasons today are two and a half months longer than they were in 1970.
And if you're wondering about Napa's most famous export, it's too early to know how its wine will fare—grapes are harvested from early August until December, so a significant portion of the fruit could still be on the vine.