Wildfires tearing through California wine country flared up again Wednesday, destroying hundreds more homes and other buildings and leading to new evacuation orders as authorities raised the death toll to 21 and warned that the number would rise.
At least 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed since the wildfires started Sunday, making them the third deadliest and most destructive blazes in state history.
Nearly three days after the flames ignited in Northern California, firefighters were still unable to gain control of the blazes, which were growing in number. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant said 22 wildfires were burning, up from 17 on Tuesday.
Flames have raced across the wine-growing region and the scenic coastal area of Mendocino farther north, leaving little more than smoldering ashes and eye-stinging smoke in their wake. Whole neighborhoods are gone, with only brick chimneys and charred laundry machines to mark sites that were once family homes.
Authorities ordered more evacuations for parts of Sonoma Valley after a blaze grew to 44 square miles (113 square kilometers). Officials also cautioned that after a day of cooler weather and calmer winds, dangerous gusts would return Wednesday.
California Gov. Jerry Brown warns that catastrophic wildfires will keep ripping through the state as the climate warms.
Brown told reporters Wednesday that more people are living in communities close to forests and brush that easily ignite because of dry weather. Blazes burning in Northern California have become some of the deadliest in state history.
He says a warming climate has contributed to catastrophic wildfires and that they will continue to happen. The governor, who's positioned himself as a leader in the fight against climate change, says residents and officials have to be prepared and do everything they can to mitigate the problem.
Brown says the federal government has pledged assistance but points out resources also are going to hurricane recovery efforts in Texas and Florida.
KXTV contributed to this report.
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