Massive wildfires sweeping through California have killed at least 23 people and damaged thousands of homes, businesses and other buildings, authorities said.
Firefighters were still battling 22 wildfires in multiple California counties Wednesday. Intensified by strong winds, the flames have charred about 170,000 acres of land, damaged or destroyed at least 3,500 structures and forced nearly 20,000 residents to evacuate, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The causes of the fires are unknown.
At least 8,000 firefighters and support personnel and 124 aircraft are battling the fires, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. California Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties in Northern California.
With firefighters stretched thin throughout the state, federal agencies as well as neighboring Nevada and nearby Washington state are assisting with resources. Authorities said 1,000 fire departments from San Diego to Oregon were assisting.
St. Joseph Health said 168 patients have been treated, many for burns and smoke inhalation, at three of its hospitals in Napa and Sonoma counties as of Monday night.
An additional 285 people were missing in Sonoma County as of Wednesday evening, according to the sheriff's office. There have been 600 total missing reports since the fires began, but 315 have those have been located safe.
Meanwhile, at least 7,000 people were without power Wednesday in Napa County alone.
With mandatory evacuation orders still in place, many residents in the affected areas have been warned not to return to their homes until further notice.
"Life is more important than property," Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano said at a press conference Tuesday.
He said he thinks the wildfires will be "one of the worst natural disasters in California history."
The so-called Atlas, Nuns and Patrick fires are considered branches of one giant blaze in Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties — collectively known as the Southern LNU Complex — according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Mandatory evacuations and road closures were underway in Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties, the heart of California's wine country, as the flames threatened thousands of structures.
The Atlas fire has scorched 42,349 acres in Napa and Solano counties since the inferno began Sunday night, and just 3 percent of the blaze was contained Wednesday morning. The enormous fire has destroyed 125 structures.