A ring of flames closed around the Sacramento region this week, as almost two dozen wind-whipped wildfires stampeded across Northern California and left public safety officials searching for new superlatives to describe a fearsome trend.
More than 122,000 acres have burned in more than a dozen fires in the state.
After a day of cooler weather and calmer winds, officials say low moisture and risky gusty winds will return to the region Wednesday afternoon, complicating firefighters' efforts.
"The fire was in the middle of the night", the sheriff said.
Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano said Wednesday morning that emergency crews continued to evacuate neighborhoods near Santa Rosa through the night because of concerns that strong winds forecast for later in the day would kick up the deadly wildfires that have been burning since Sunday.
The Sonoma County Sheriff department posted a dashcam video on Facebook taken by one of its deputies, showing the hellish scene as he drove through an area wreathed in flame.
Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott announced an hour later three more people have died in the Mendocino Lake Complex fires in Mendocino County - bringing the total number to six.
Survivors said they didn't know a huge fire was bearing down on their houses until the last second. Join us in a conversation about world events, the newsgathering process or whatever aspect of the news universe you find interesting or important.
"We are now assessing damage as first responders grant permission for our crews to safely access areas". But electric wires knocked down by those same winds may have sparked the conflagration, according to Daniel Berlant, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire). In Yuba County, the Cascade Fire was at 11,685 acres and was 20 percent contained.
Shelters and evacuation centers are set up across the area. In some cases, the utility has purposefully cut power to prevent lines from endangering first responders. Additional crewmembers will be coming from Southern California to help with assessing damage to gas service in the fire-ravaged areas.
"The spread of the fire and predictions on the wind and seeing what we've seen had happen throughout our neighboring communities, obviously want to absolutely err on the side of caution here", he said. Still, he said he expects most of the people reported missing to be found safely.
US President Donald Trump has also approved a disaster declaration, allowing federal emergency aid to be disbursed. At least 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed in the devastating fires.
A Santa Rosa hospital initially said it had no record of him, but when the family tried again, it was told he had been transferred elsewhere with serious burns.
"They're not reporting anything".
He said that autumn - when summer heat has dried out brush - is the most unsafe time of the year for wildfires in the state, adding that California was still feeling the effects of five years of drought.
Another Atlas Peak Road resident, Richard Clark, said Tuesday he still hadn't seen the fire's destruction and has no idea what will be left of his home.