Hellish firestorms in northern California have killed at least 17 people and razed entire neighborhoods, destroying more than 2,000 structures. Dozens of other people have been reported missing, raising fears that the death toll could rise sharply.
The "disaster is relentless," Wednesday's front page of the San Francisco Chronicle reads above a photograph of the Coffey Park neighborhood in Santa Rosa, one of the areas hardest hit. It is also widespread, with multiple focal points, making it especially difficult for firefighters to control. As of early Wednesday, fires were still raging in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Yuba counties, all north of San Francisco.
Weather conditions aren't helping matters. Offshore winds that helped fuel the fires initially are expected to return Wednesday afternoon and continue into Thursday, the California daily reports. The blazes have also produced the "worst air quality ever in many parts' of the populous Bay Area, south of the fire zone. The cities and towns in the Bay Area together have more than 7.5 million residents.