100 missing in California ‘Armageddon’


sonomaAT least 10 people are dead after more than a dozen wildfires whipped by powerful winds swept through California wine country.

Authorities said the blaze destroyed 1500 homes and businesses, sending thousands fleeing as flames raged unchecked through high-end resorts, grocery stores and tree-lined neighbourhoods.

The Northern California county of Sonoma has revealed it has received more than 100 missing-person reports from family and friends unable to make contact with loved ones as the firestorm rages across the countryside.

While it is possible many are safe but out-of-touch due to downed phone towers, fears are growing the death toll is set to soar.

As he fled through the ember-strewn streets of his neighbourhood in Santa Rosa, Jeff Okrepkie knew it was probably the last time he would see his home of the past five years standing.

His worst fears were confirmed on Monday morning, when a friend sent him a photo of what was left: a smouldering heap of burnt metal and debris.

“We live in the valley, where it’s concrete and strip malls and hotels and supermarkets,” Okrepkie said. “The last thing you think is a forest fire is going to come and wipe us out.”

“It was an inferno like you’ve never seen before,” said Marian Williams, who caravanned with neighbours before dawn as one of the wildfires reached the vineyards and ridges at her small Sonoma County town of Kenwood.

Williams could feel the heat of her fire through the car as she fled. “Trees were on fire like torches,” she said.