Vice President Mike Pence pledged federal support and aid for California on Tuesday as the state battles blazes in Sonoma, Napa, Nevada, Butte and Yuba Counties in the north and Orange County in the south.
The Trump administration made a federal fire management assistance declaration, according to the website of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The move means that FEMA can provide financial assistance to both individuals and communities. However, the website does not list the amount of funds that will be provided.
Meanwhile, CAL FIRE said firefighters were battling 17 large wildfires that had started in the past 36 hours. The Tubbs Fire that has burned 27,000 acres, 550 homes and 27 stores laying waste to whole neighborhoods in Santa Rosa remains out of control. The Atlas Fire, which has scored 25,000 acres and destroyed 125 structures, also reported zero containment.
Sonoma Sheriff Rob Giordano urged everyone to “please be patient. Life is more important than property. Bare with us. We want to keep people safe.”
He said he had “roughly 200 people on the street right now in the county that are from outside agencies,” and later named the National Guard, multiple law enforcement agencies, Office of Emergency Service and CAL FIRE. “We’ve got excellent resourses. [The federal disaster declaration] will give us the funding to pay for all that.”
Sonoma County spokeswoman Maggie Fleming told the Los Angeles Times that the county has received reports of 200 people missing. The Sheriff’s Office has located 45 of them.
Most of the fatalities also occurred in Sonoma, where the death toll is now nine. Two people have died in Napa County, three in Mendocino County and one in Yuba County, Cal Fire officials confirmed.
Earlier in the day one woman in the town of Sonoma texted Wine Enthusiast that the “fires are still very active despite the wind changes, and houses on the outskirts of town still burning.”
At least three wineries have been destroyed, including Paradise Ridge Winery, located in the foothills above Santa Rosa in Sonoma, Signorello Estate, located on the Silverado Trail in Napa, and Frey Vineyards in Redwood Valley.
Gundlach Bundschu Winery in Sonoma—the oldest California family-owned winery—survived the flames.
“The winery is still standing,” Katie Bundschu told Wine Enthusiast of the structure’s state. “Nothing is scorched yet. There are three fire truck on our property. They’re going to be here for the next week. Luckily, the weather is cooperating… We still have half our fruit on the vines,” she said.
Bundschu added that while they have generators working in the winery because they are currently fermenting, “the rest of the place has no power, and I haven’t heard an estimation of when we will.”
Additional updates to come from our reporters on the ground as the story unfolds.