The death toll rose to 31 Thursday as California authorities began assessing the damage from the deadliest spate of wildfires to strike the state in more than 80 years, even while the blazes continued to flatten swaths of land and drive people from their homes.
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection officials said some 190,000 acres had scorched across the state by Thursday afternoon as high winds and dry conditions spread the fires with frightening speed. Sonoma County, north of San Francisco, sustained the most damage, with 17 people confirmed dead and 400 reported missing; in the city of Santa Rosa, officials reported nearly 3,000 homes destroyed.
Taken together, the blazes have killed more people than the last disastrous fire to strike the state, the Oakland Hills fire in 1991. The death toll now matches that of the 1933 Griffith Park fire in Los Angeles and is likely to rise as authorities continue to explore the wreckage.