The wildfires in California have been called ‘the worst’ in the state’s history as at least 10 people have died, 100 have been injured and more than 1,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed.
Here’s what you need to know.
Since Sunday night (US time), 14 wildfires have been raging across 200 miles, including Northern California’s wine-growing region of Napa and Sonoma valleys and the nearby city of Santa Rosa. A state of emergency was declared by Governor Jerry Brown in Napa, Sonoma, Butte, Lake, Mendocino, Nevada and Yuba counties – and a curfew has been imposed in Santa Rosa, with authorities keeping watch for looting.
In Southern California, more than 5,000 homes were evacuated and more than 6,000 acres were scorched in Orange County, also declared a state of emergency, while smoke was visible in the sky over Disneyland and air quality warnings were issued for parts of Los Angeles county.
While October is the most common time for wildfires in California, it’s unusual for so many to break out at the same time and firefighters’ efforts have been hampered by winds of up to 50mph.
What’s the advice for holidaymakers already in California?
California wine country is a massive draw for tourists, with some 23.6 million visiting each year, boosting the economy by $7.2 billion.
Fire has destroyed the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country hotel in Santa Rosa. A warning message on the hotel’s website says it is “temporarily closed due to area wildfires”.
The Silverado Resort and Spa in the Napa Valley is also closed and posted the following message on its website: “Guests and staff are being safely evacuated at this time. The safety and security of our guests and staff is our highest priority and we look forward to welcoming you back soon.
“All reservations from Monday, October 9th through Wednesday, October 11th will be cancelled and all deposits and cancellation fees will be waived.”
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office has issued the following advice for British tourists in California: “Evacuation orders are in place in several areas and emergency shelters have been opened. Some infrastructure has been damaged, including phone communications and internet access.
“Wildfires can spread swiftly, so always remain cautious. Follow the instructions issued by the local authorities, and obey all evacuation orders. Local authority advice and information on emergency shelters is available at the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES).”
What should you do if you’re due to travel there soon?
Check with your travel insurance to make make sure you are covered for any cancellation or disruption, such as your hotel being closed.
British Airways flights to Los Angeles are all “operating as normal”, but it’s worth checking with your airline or tour operator before you travel.
A spokesperson for the Association of ABTA said: “People on package holidays with imminent plans to travel to the affected areas of California will be contacted by their travel providers in the event that it is necessary to amend their holiday arrangements. Independent travellers are advised to check with their airlines and accommodation providers.”