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Glass fire tears through California's wine country; hospital evacuated

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Darryl Coote & Jean Lotus
The Glass fire in Napa County, California, erupted early Sunday, threatening thousands of homes. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI
The Glass fire in Napa County, California, erupted early Sunday, threatening thousands of homes. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 28 (UPI) -- A wildfire in California's wine country destroyed structures at several historic vineyards and grew to thousands of acres, forcing evacuations throughout the region, including for a nearby hospital.

The Glass fire, which erupted just before 4 a.m. Sunday, exploded to 36,236 acres by Monday night, burning vegetation and structures throughout Napa Valley, home to hundreds of wine vineyards, with zero containment, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said in its incident update. The same region burned during the 2017 wildfires.

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Officials said 865 firefighters were battling the blaze as numerous fire air tankers from throughout the state flew fire suppression missions, the department said, adding that crews would be working on perimeter control, structure defense and evacuations.

Overnight, two additional fires merged with the Glass fire, and crews have reported short-range spotting with wind-driven runs.

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"The fire has been at a dangerous rate of spread and has expanded into Sonoma County," Cal Fire said in a Monday morning update.

At least nine people were treated at a Santa Rosa Memorial hospital, two for burns and seven for smoke inhalation, the Press Democrat reported. Another 12 were treated for smoke inhalation at Queen of the Valley Hospital in Napa.

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Sonoma County issued evacuation orders for 68,000 residents including 35,500 residents ordered to evacuate the city of Santa Rosa, where Mayor Tom Schwedhelm encouraged residents to leave for their own safety.

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"Unfortunately, there always seem to be some folks who choose not to heed those warnings," Schwedhelm said Monday. "We're not doing these evacuations for practice. We're doing this for a reason. ... Don't think you can do it on your own, because that leads to property damage, and quite frankly, death."

The fire burned historic structures, including the wine cellars at Castello di Amorosa, a tourist attraction.

Cal Fire said the fire threatens at least 8,543 structures, prompting Napa County to initiate evacuations and issue warnings throughout the area as the fire burns near St. Helena. Homes and public buildings in the town of Deer Park were burned.

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The fire prompted St. Helena Hospital to suspend services and evacuate all 55 patients, who were transferred by helicopter to other hospitals, it said in a statement.

"The safety and well-being of our patients and associates are our highest priority," Steven Herber, president of the hospital, said.

The Contra County Fire Protection District and the San Ramon Valley Fire Department said via Twitter that they assisted with the hospital evacuations.

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The National Weather Service said a Red Flag Warning issued for much of northern California due to critical fire weather caused by low humidity and winds of up to 50 mph has been extended to Monday night.

On top of the Red Flag Warning, a fire weather watch is in effect Monday across Los Angeles, Ventura, San Diego Mountains, Santa Clarita Valley and San Diego Valley due to gusty Santa Ana winds and low humidity, Cal Fire said.

Utility Pacific Gas & Electric said it was shutting off power to high-risk areas to prevent further wildfires, impacting some 65,000 customers primarily in the northern and central Sierra region, it said in a statement Sunday.

Some 11,000 customers had their power shut off early Sunday with the second wave of shutoffs to have begun in the afternoon. Napa County was one of 16 counties that were expected to be impacted, it said.

In Shasta County, north of Glass fire, the Zogg fire consumed 15,000 acres after igniting Sunday, killing three people.

Shasta County Sheriff Eric Magrini announced the deaths Monday afternoon during a press conference, stating he could not go into further details.

"Our coroner's office is working diligently to identify the deceased and notify next of kin," he said.

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He said Zogg is a fast-moving fire and to heed evacuation orders as there won't be any warnings.

"Do not wait," he said.

Officials said the fire ignited before 3 p.m. Sunday but exploded to 1,000 acres within three hours, forcing residents west of Redding to evacuate, an order that was later issued for other regions, including Stirling City and Magalia.

Glass and Zogg fires are only two of nearly 8,000 that have burned in the state this season, scorching more than 3.6 million acres.

Cal Fire said in a statement Sunday that since Aug. 15, there have been 26 deaths, excluding those announced Monday, and more than 7,000 structures destroyed by fires.

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