Hundreds of buildings have been lost to a fast-moving Northern California wildfire that had forced thousands to flee Sunday and hospitalized four firefighters with second-degree burns.
The so-called Valley Fire in Lake County, northwest of Sacramento, erupted early Saturday afternoon and rapidly burned through brush and trees parched from several years of drought, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CalFire.
The fire spread quickly, growing from 50 acres to 400 acres just before 4 p.m. (7 p.m. ET) Saturday, to 50,000 acres by Sunday afternoon. In a briefing at the Napa County fairgrounds, which has been turned into an evacuation center, officials said that the blaze was still at zero percent containment.
During the fire's first 24 hours, Napa County Fire Chief Barry Biermann said, authorities had one task in mind: "life saving."
Entire towns, as well as residents, along a 35-mile stretch of highway were ordered to flee their homes. "In some cases," Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said earlier Sunday, "residents only had minutes to evacuate."
Berlant said that the day-old fire has destroyed hundreds of buildings, but the fire is raging so viciously that authorities can't yet determine exactly how many structures have burned.