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|October 2017 Northern California wildfires|
Copernicus Sentinel-3A satellite picture, October 9
|Total area||At least 245,000 acres (99,148 ha)|
|Cost||>$9 billion (2017 USD)|
|Date(s)||October 8, 2017– October 31, 2017|
|Cause||Currently under investigation|
|Location of Northern California wildfires|
The October 2017 Northern California wildfires, also known as the October 2017 Northern California firestorm, were a series of 250 wildfires that started burning across the state of California, United States, beginning in early October. 21 of the wildfires became major fires that burned at least 245,000 acres (99,148 ha). The wildfires broke out throughout Napa, Lake, Sonoma, Mendocino, Butte, and Solano Counties during severe fire weather conditions, effectively leading to a major red flag warning for much of the Northern California area. Seventeen separate wildfires were reported at that time. These fires included the Tubbs Fire (which grew to become the most destructive wildfire in the history of California), the Atlas Fire, Nuns Fire, and others. These wildfires were also the most destructive ones of the 2017 California wildfire season. The October 2017 were the costliest group of wildfires on record, causing at least $9 billion dollars (2017 USD) in insured damages, surpassing the 1991 Oakland firestorm, which was the single costliest fire on record.
Owing to the extreme conditions, shortly after the fires ignited on October 8 and 9, they rapidly grew to become extensive, full-scale incidents spanning from 1,000 acres (400 hectares) to well over 20,000 acres (8,100 ha), each within a single day. By October 14, the fires had burned more than 210,000 acres (85,000 ha) while forcing 90,000 people to evacuate from their homes. The Northern California fires have killed at least 44 people and hospitalized at least 185, making the week of October 8, 2017, the deadliest week of wildfires in California history. Collectively, this event constitutes the largest loss of life due to wildfires in the United States since the Cloquet Fire in 1918. In total, an estimated 8,900 structures were destroyed.
Days prior to the wildfires, the National Weather Service had begun issuing red-flag warnings throughout much of northern California as conditions were expected to become extremely volatile, with winds expected to be gusting between 25 and 35 miles per hour (40 and 56 km/h) from the north to the south. By the evening of October 8, the Diablo winds were reported gusting up to 70 miles per hour (110 km/h) within the affected areas as over a dozen wildfires began to break out.
Many of those killed in the fires are believed to have died late on October 8 or early on October 9, 2017, when most of the fires broke out overnight. Most of the victims were elderly, though the ages of the victims ranged from 14 to 100 years old.
On October 9, California governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for the counties of Napa, Sonoma, Yuba, Butte, Lake, Mendocino, Nevada, and Orange, and sent a letter to the White House requesting a major disaster declaration. President Donald Trump approved the disaster declaration on October 10. That evening, Gov. Brown issued an emergency declaration for Solano County. Surveying the region, representative Mike Thompson of California's 5th congressional district said, "I fully expect this will be the worst fire disaster in California history."
Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) reported that 310,000 customers lost electricity service and 42,000 customers lost gas service since the wildfires started on October 8. By October 14, PG&E restored electricity to 92% and gas service to 16,800 of the customers affected.
Reinsurance broker Aon Benfield stated that these are the costliest wildfires in U.S. history, with an estimated eight billion U.S. dollars in insured losses. The largest portion of these losses was to residential property. Additional losses were to automobiles, commercial property including business interruption insurance, and to crops. Many of the losses were in urban areas not historically prone to wildfire exposure.
By October 12, the air quality in the city of Napa was ranked the poorest in the nation, due to high levels of particulates and ozone. By October 13, air quality in the city reached the "hazardous" level, the most dangerous on the Environmental Protection Agency scale. In Solano County, over 250 people were sickened by smoke inhalation, and sought care at hospitals. Twenty-three were admitted to emergency rooms.
By October 12, smoke from the wildfires had spread nearly 100 miles, with "unhealthy" air quality indices registered in the cities of Oakland, San Francisco, and San Rafael. Due to the poor air quality, San Francisco State University canceled classes, and outdoor activities were canceled in a number of cities, including Danville, Redwood City, and Walnut Creek. Visibility issues spurred the Federal Aviation Administration to implement a ground delay program at San Francisco International Airport, and nearly 280 flights were canceled over a three-day period. Over a week after the fires started, flights continued to be canceled and delayed due to poor visibility from the smoke.
|Name||County||Acres||Start date||Containment date||Deaths||Notes||Ref|
|Cherokee||Butte||8,417||October 8, 2017||October 16, 2017|||
|Atlas||Napa, Solano||51,624||October 8, 2017||October 28, 2017||6||785 structures destroyed, 40 structures damaged|||
|Tubbs||Napa, Sonoma||36,807||October 8, 2017||October 31, 2017||22||5,600 structures destroyed, 1 injured|||
|Nuns||Napa, Sonoma||56,556||October 8, 2017||October 30, 2017||3||Merged with the Norrbom, Adobe, Partrick, Pressley, and Oakmont Fires. 1,200 structures destroyed|||
|Redwood Valley Complex||Mendocino||36,523||October 9, 2017||October 26, 2017||9||545 structures destroyed, 43 injured|||
|La Porte||Butte||6,151||October 9, 2017||October 19, 2017|||
|Cascade||Yuba||9,989||October 9, 2017||October 19, 2017||4||143 residential and 123 outbuildings destroyed|||
|Sulphur||Lake||2,207||October 9, 2017||October 26, 2017||150 structures destroyed|||
|37 Fire||Sonoma||1,660||October 9, 2017||October 12, 2017||25 structures destroyed, 55 structures damaged|||
|Sonoma||17,357||October 9, 2017||October 31, 2017|||
|Lobo||Nevada||821||October 9, 2017||October 18, 2017||At least 30 structures destroyed|||
|Bear||Santa Cruz||391||October 16, 2017||October 27, 2017||4 structures destroyed, 7 injuries|||
The Cherokee Fire broke out on the evening of Sunday, October 8, near Oroville in Butte County just after 9 PM PDT. Reportedly igniting near Cherokee Road, the fire quickly expanded from hundreds to thousands of acres within a few hours of burning as it threatened nearby Oroville and surrounding rural neighborhoods.
The Tubbs Fire started near Tubbs Lane in Calistoga on the evening of October 8, 2017 and has burned at least 34,000 acres (13,759 ha). In the Fountain Grove area numerous homes, the historic Fountaingrove Inn, Round Barn, and a Hilton resort were destroyed. By October 14, the death toll from this fire alone had risen to 20. By October 20, the Tubbs Fire had become the most destructive wildfire in the history of California.
The Nuns Fire, centered in the areas to the east and north of the city of Sonoma, merged with the Norrbom fire on October 11. The Adobe fire merged with Nuns/Norrbom on October 12. The Partrick fire joined the four-fire conflagration on October 13. By October 16, the combined fire, which now also included the Pressley fire, covered over 48,000 acres. On October 18, the Oakmont Fire merged into the Nuns Fire, and the combined fire grew to over 54,000 acres in size.
As of October 12, 2017, the cause of the fires remained under investigation.
News media noted reports of wind-damaged power equipment around the time the fires were starting. Pacific Gas & Electric stated that strong winds had affected the utility's power lines in the North Bay area on late October 8 and early October 9. A California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) spokesperson stated that investigators were considering this among other possible causes.
The California Public Utilities Commission sent PG&E a notification to preserve equipment, emails and documents relevant to the utility's tree-trimming program.
CAL FIRE Director Ken Pimlott discouraged premature speculation of causes, stating that "The facts will come out when the investigations are done."