The fires broke out nearly simultaneously and then exploded overnight, sending residents fleeing as embers rained down and flames raged around them. Two hospitals in Santa Rosa, the largest city in the region with 175,000 people, were forced to evacuate patients.
Taken as a group, the fires are already among the 10 deadliest in California history, and the death toll is expected to grow.
Fires from ruptured gas lines dotted the smoky landscapes of blackened Santa Rosa hillsides. Fire trucks raced by smoldering roadside landscaping in search of higher priorities.
The flames were fickle in some corners of the city. One hillside home remained unscathed while a dozen surrounding it were destroyed.