Video: Sheriff drives through hellish landscape during California wildfires

Alarming video has emerged of a sheriff driving through flames in northern California where wildfires are destroying thousands of properties.

Officials say 17 people have so far died in the fires, and thousands of properties have either been damaged or totally destroyed.

The Sonoma County Sheriff department posted a dashcam video on Facebook taken by one of its deputies, showing the hellish scene as he drove through an area wreathed in flame.

"This particular stretch of roadway was in the area of Franz Valley Rd at the onset of the fire's entrance to Sonoma County," the post read.

"This is but one moment in a series of moments that will end up defining the strength of our community through what will be a pinnacle moment in Sonoma County history.

"Please be safe, be calm, and be caring for your neighbors ... we will get through this disaster together!"


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Rapper Eminem unleashes profane lyrical tirade calling Trump 'racist 94-year-old grandpa'

Eminem has unleashed a profane lyrical tirade against President Donald Trump - saying he "came to stomp" and taking aim at Trump's Twitter habits, policy, appearance and supporters.

The rapper this week unveiled "The Storm," a 4½-minute freestyle rap video recorded Friday (local time) in a Detroit parking garage that aired as part of BET's Hip Hop Awards on Tuesday night.

Eminem slammed the Republican president as "a kamikaze who will probably cause a nuclear holocaust" before criticizing Trump's ongoing campaign against NFL national anthem protests.

"But this is his form of distraction, plus he gets an enormous reaction when he attacks the NFL, so we focus on that instead of talking Puerto Rico or gun reform for Nevada. All these horrible tragedies and he's bored and would rather cause a Twitter storm with the Packers," he rapped.

He later mentioned NFL free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who's credited with launching the ongoing anthem protests. Kaepernick told the rapper on Twitter, "I appreciate you."

Eminem also took down Trump's recently unveiled plan for tax cuts, questioning: "then who's going to pay for his extravagant trips back and forth with his fam to his golf resorts and his mansions?"

At one point he called Trump, who's 71, a "racist 94-year-old grandpa" and compared the president's appearance to the Marvel Comics character "The Thing."

The 44-year-old rapper closed out his rant with a message to his fans who support Trump, saying "I'm drawing in the sand a line, you're either for or against." He added that people who don't support the president love the military and the country, but "hate Trump."

The White House didn't respond to a request for comment on the video, and Trump didn't mention it while tweeting on several issues Wednesday morning.

This is Eminem's most recent rhymed attack on Trump. It follows up last year's nine-minute freestyle track "Campaign Speech" and a verse earlier this year on Big Sean's "No Favours."

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Investigators looking into causes of California wildfires as death toll rises to 17

A carelessly discarded cigarette, a downed power line, a car's backfire or a chainsaw's pull. Just about anything could have started any one of the wildfires now tearing through Northern California, authorities said.

"Every spark is going to ignite a fire," said Ken Pimlott, the state's top firefighter. He said the risk remains "extreme for new starts."

Pimlott said Tuesday that investigators are looking into the causes, but no determination has been made at any of the 17 sites of major wildfires blazing in Northern California.

The death toll from devastating wildfires in California has risen to at least 23. Source: 1 NEWS

Pimlott, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection director, said "98 per cent" of all wildfires are started by people and it's unlikely lightning is to blame for any of the fires that exploded overnight Sunday, killing at least 17 people so far.

California's most dangerous wildfire season comes in autumn, when summer heat and insects have left brush dead and dried out, and winds are especially hot, dry and strong.
"This is traditionally California's worst time for fires," Pimlott said.

Pimlott said firefighters typically respond to 300 blazes a week during this season, but nearly all are extinguished quickly and with minimal damage. It's unusual to have many major fires burning at once, he said.

However, conditions were ripe for wildfires in California wine country after record rains last winter created an abundance of dry vegetation, which combined with low humidity and unusually high winds gusting to 79 mph (127kmh) to create fast-moving infernos.

None of the major fires has been contained. They are spread over a 200-mile (321km) region north of San Francisco from Napa in the south to Redding in the north, taxing firefighting resources.

"Our primary effort is going to put containment lines in as quickly as possible," Pimlott said Tuesday (Wednesday NZT).

Napa County Fire Chief Barry Biermann said fires had been moving too fast and unpredictably for firefighters to attack directly.

"The winds were extremely erratic during those conditions of high winds and a lot of things happened," Biermann said Tuesday (Wednesday NZT). He and others said resources are stretched thin as firefighters battle so many major blazes simultaneously.

California Office of Emergency Services director Mark Ghilarducci said more than 4,000 firefighters, law enforcement officials and others are responding.

Airplanes are dropping fire retardant and fresh firefighters from Southern California and Nevada are streaming in to help. Lines are being dug on the south side of many blazes in preparation for northerly winds picking up.

The US Department of Defence is sending a large drone to help map the fires and assess damage. The California National Guard is also providing gasoline to firefighters and other first responders because many service stations in the area are without power and unable to pump fuel.

The biggest and most devastating fire is burning in Santa Rosa, a city of 175,000 people 45 miles (72km) north of San Francisco.

A fire there swept through several neighbourhoods and business districts, destroying at least 550 homes and 21 commercial buildings.

Many residents had only minutes to flee. Eleven of the 17 fatalities found so far have occurred in and near Santa Rosa.

Many roads are closed throughout Northern California, though US Route 101 was reopened in two spots Tuesday. California Highway Patrol officers are helping with security at evacuation centres and providing escorts to rescue vehicles travelling in dangerous areas, commissioner Warren Stanley said.

He also had a request for motorists in the area: "Anybody who is driving around - if you're smoking in your car - please do not throw your cigarettes out the window."


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