Death toll rises to 21 as Northern California fires spread to more than 160,000 acres

By Phil WillonPaige St. JohnLouis SahagunSonali Kohli and Chris Megerian

The death toll rose to 21 Wednesday as multiple wildfires continued to spread across Northern California’s wine country, according to state fire officials.

State and federal officials portrayed an all-out effort to fend off the devastating wildfires at a news conference at a state emergency operations center outside Sacramento.

“It’s an extremely stressful and challenging time,” said Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci. “We are all hands on deck.”

The situation remains very dangerous, officials said.

“We’re not going to be out of the woods for a great many days to come,” said Cal Fire head Ken Pimlott. The state is still feeling the effects of the drought despite a recent wet winter, and there’s “explosive vegetation” fueling the blazes.

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