Is Climate Change Affecting Northern California's Devastating Fires?

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San Francisco authorities issued an air quality alert due to smoke from the fires, which residents said they could smell from the early morning hours.

Flames were spread rapidly by hot, dry "Diablo" winds - similar to Southern California's Santa Ana winds - that blew into northern California toward the Pacific on Sunday night.

"This is very definitely on people's radar of what caused a number of fires to break out all at once".

Thousands of firefighters battled wind gusts in excess of 80 kilometres per hour as 14 wildfires - several out of control - in eight northern California counties burned through more than 23,000 hectares since the weekend, CalFire spokesman Daniel Berlant said.

"That is definitely a possibility", he told Reuters.

But authorities point to a flawless storm of factors that have fanned the wildfires that began Sunday night, leaving at left 17 people dead, forcing 20,000 to evacuate and causing widespread devastation in Northern California.

But the fast-moving fires have decimated whole neighborhoods, leaving nothing but the charred remains of houses and brick chimneys standing among soot-covered lots. There were originally 600 reports of missing people, but officials said that 315 were located safely.

The video below, shot by two guys who woke up outside the perimeter of the fire in Santa Rosa and drove around looking at the destruction, includes footage of a gun store (around the 8:27 mark and after) where bullets were exploding after the building burned to the ground.

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"There's so much to be done", said Bob Lawler, mission catalyst for the Redwood Empire Baptist Association in Vacaville, Calif.

Murphy, five relatives, a bird, a dog and two cats piled into their camper van to flee on Monday, he said.

"I want to go up and see what's there", he said, "and I don't want to go, you know?" As of late Tuesday, fire crews had little to no containment on the six major fires burning in Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties. Conditions eased somewhat Tuesday - but the National Weather Service says high winds could return to the area beginning late Wednesday night, with gusts over 50 miles per hour. While the winds faded in strength on October 10, they were back in force on October 11, along with lower humidity levels. These fires were driven by the critically dry fuel bed.

Officials in Sonoma County said they've received more than 100 calls about missing people, NBC News reported.

Wildfires already well on their way to becoming the deadliest and most destructive in California history could gain momentum on Thursday and erase even the modest gains firefighters have made.

The other big fire, the Atlas Fire centered in Napa and Solano counties, did not grow much, according to Cal Fire; it remained at almost 43,000 acres and was 3 percent contained, up from zero the day before.

Smoke from various wildfires is seen in Sonoma Valley along Highway 12 during the Tubbs Fire in Sonoma.

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