International desk, October 13: The number of people confirmed dead in wildfires sweeping northern California has climbed to 31, as officials warned that conditions would worsen.Hundreds of people remain missing as at least 22 fires rampaged across the state’s famous wine country.
More than 8,000 firefighters are now battling the flames.
The wildfires have destroyed more than 3,500 buildings and homes over 170,000 acres (68,800 hectares) and displaced about 25,000 people.
Seventeen people are now confirmed killed in Sonoma County, with another eight in Mendocino County, four in Yuba County and two in Napa County, officials said.
Strong winds that have fanned the flames eased in recent days, but forecasters warned they were set to pick up again on Friday night.
“We are not even close to being out of this emergency,” Mark Ghilarducci, state director of emergency services, told reporters.
State fire chief Ken Pimlott warned of “erratic, shifting winds all weekend”.
Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano said recovery teams with cadaver dogs were searching the smouldering ruins of homes.
It is not yet clear what started the fires on Sunday night, but officials say power lines blown over by strong winds could be the cause.
One of the greatest threats to life is believed to be around the town of Calistoga, Napa County, where the entire population of 5,000 has been ordered to evacuate.