At least 29 dead in horrific California wildfires, hundreds missing

WATCH California’s fire chief says the wildfires will get worse before they get better

Massive wildfires sweeping through California have killed at least 31 people and damaged thousands of homes, businesses and other buildings, authorities said.

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More than half of the deaths occurred in Sonoma County alone, officials said. Taken together, the death toll from this week’s fires exceeds the number of fatalities in the 1933 Griffith Park Fire in Los Angeles, the deadliest wildfire in California history.

Firefighters were still battling 21 large wildfires in multiple counties as of Thursday morning. Intensified by strong winds, the flames have charred more than 190,000 acres of land, damaged or destroyed at least 3,500 structures and forced more than 20,000 residents to evacuate, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Containment of the fire has increased, and weather conditions are expected to improve overnight, officials said Thursday.

The causes of the fires is still under investigation.

SLIDESHOW: PHOTOS: Wildfires rage through California wine country

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More than 8,000 firefighters and support personnel are battling the fires, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. California Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties in Northern California.

With firefighters stretched thin throughout the state, federal agencies as well as neighboring Nevada and nearby Washington state are assisting with resources. Authorities said 1,000 fire departments from San Diego to Oregon have joined the effort. Requests for resources have also gone out to Idaho, Montana, North and South Carolina, New Mexico, Arizona, as well as Australia, said Mark Ghilarducci, director of California Governor’s Office of Emergency…

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