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Wildfires erupt overnight in California’s wine country

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(The Tubbs Fire burns in Northern California Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, as seen from this video posted on YouTube by Craig Philpott)

A series of fires fanned by high winds erupted Sunday night and Monday morning in California’s wine country, charring at least 20,000 acres and sending thousands of people fleeing homes, hotels and hospitals in the middle of the night.

The fires, many of which started late Sunday, burned out of control across hillsides in Sonoma and Napa counties, north of San Francisco and west of Sacramento. Multiple other counties were affected as smoke pushed into neighborhoods as day broke.

The largest, the Tubbs Fire, scorched in excess of 20,000 acres within just a few hours, Santa Rosa Fire reported. The fast-moving fire forced the evacuation of area hospitals, closed schools and led officials to recall all city employees to help staff the emergency operations center.

The Santa Rosa city manager and acting director of emergency services declared the situation a local emergency, according to the incident’s information page. 

“This is a life-threatening event,” the Santa Rosa Police Department said in a 2 a.m. alert regarding the evacuations. “Leave immediately.”

There was no immediate word on injuries to civilians or first responders.

The National Weather Services has issued a Red flag warning for the region until 5 a.m. Tuesday. North winds were forecast to gust to 30 mph through the day Monday before shifting to the south and diminishing by afternoon.

“Warm temperatures, low humidity and locally strong winds will coincide with critically dry fuels,” forecasters warned.

The nearby Marin County Sheriff’s Office reported no fires Monday morning but said its 911 dispatchers were overwhelmed with people calling to report smoke from other area fires being pushed into their neighborhoods.

Video from residents in the area shows the frantic evacuation efforts that unfolded Monday morning.

The exact magnitude of this event remains unclear as day breaks in the area. Photos circulating online, including several hosted here by The San Francisco Chronicle, show several structures, including homes, totally destroyed in the densely populated area.

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