California Warns Fires Will Worsen as Stronger Winds Blow In

California authorities warned the deadly wildfires burning out of control throughout the state could intensify Thursday if high winds in the forecast spark new blazes in areas that so far have been spared. The death toll rose to 23 on Wednesday night. “It’s going to continue to get worse before it gets better,” California state fire Chief Ken Pimlott told the Associated Press on Wednesday. “Make no mistake,” he added, “this is a serious, critical, catastrophic event.” According to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, at least 285 people were missing as of Wednesday evening, and more than 150 people have been injured. New mandatory evacuations were ordered for residents in Calistoga, Geyserville, and parts of the eastern Sonoma Valley. A red flag warning of dangerous fire conditions also came into effect to the southern parts of the Bay Area, with meteorologists predicting winds as high as 50 mph from Monterey and the Santa Cruz Mountains and north. At least 3,500 homes and business have been destroyed in the fires that erupted Sunday night. Eighty flights from San Francisco International were canceled due to smoke visibility problems and air-quality alerts warned of dangerous health conditions as far south as San Jose.