California fires: 29 killed, mayor warns Calistoga residents to flee

NAPA COUNTY, Calif. — The mayor of a small town threatened by one of Northern California’s devastating wildfires had a stern message Thursday for residents who hadn’t evacuated yet: Leave, or you’re on your own.

Evacuations were ordered a day earlier for Calistoga, a city of about 5,000 people in Napa County, as a fire — one of a series of blazes that have killed at least 29 people in the region — burned nearby.

Flames were approaching the city limits Thursday, and a few people have ignored evacuation orders, Mayor Chris Canning said.

“Your choice to stay … is a distraction to our first responders. You will not be given life safety support at this point. You are on your own,” Canning said Thursday morning at a news conference.

Fires have ravaged Northern California’s wine country since Sunday night, destroying at least 3,500 structures and leading to scores of missing-person reports, authorities said.

At least 400 people are reported missing in Sonoma County alone, where a fire wiped out thousands of homes in Santa Rosa, a city of about 175,000 people roughly 50 miles northwest of San Francisco.

Sleep-deprived, soot-covered firefighters are working to contain the wildfires, even as some of their own homes have been hit.

Still, the wind hadn’t picked up as much as feared Wednesday and Thursday, and firefighter reinforcements are coming from across the state and the country, Napa County Fire Chief Barry Biermann said.

Both factors are “starting to give us the upper hand, allowing us to actually … (get) some containment started in certain areas,” he said.

But the weather relief could be short-lived: Humidity is low, and winds could be especially gusty Friday night through Saturday, the National Weather Service says.

Residents and business owners alike have been affected, with schools canceled for the rest of the week in Napa County, and some flight cancellations at San Francisco International Airport, in part because of smoke.

At least 39 flights were canceled Thursday and 82 were canceled Wednesday, partly because of reduced visibility, airport spokesman Doug Yakel said.

More than 2,800 flights — departures and arrivals — were scheduled Thursday, the airport’s website says.