An onslaught of wildfires across a wide swath of Northern California broke out almost simultaneously then grew exponentially, swallowing up properties from wineries to trailer parks and tearing through both tiny rural towns and urban subdivisions.
At least 10 were dead, at least 100 injured and at least 1,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed, authorities said. All three figures were expected to surge in the coming days as more information is reported.
Taken as a group, the fires are already among the deadliest in California history.
Residents who gathered at emergency shelters and grocery stores said they were shocked by the speed and ferocity of the flames.
Some of the largest of the 14 blazes burning over a 200-mile region were in Napa and Sonoma counties, home to dozens of wineries that attract tourists from around the world.
They sent smoke as far south as San Francisco, about 60 miles (96 kilometres) away.
Sonoma County said it has received more than 100 missing-person reports as family and friends scramble to locate loved ones.
Much of the damage was in Santa Rosa, a far larger and more developed city than usually finds itself at the mercy of a wildfire.
The city is home to 175,000 residents.
Hundreds of homes of all sizes were levelled by flames so hot they melted the glass off of cars and turned aluminum wheels into liquid.
(i) to check the terms of their licence agreements for use of content outside news programming and that further advice and assistance can be obtained from the AP Archive on: Tel +44 (0) 20 7482 7482 Email: email@example.com
(ii) they should check with the applicable collecting society in their Territory regarding the clearance of any sound recording or performance included within the AP Television News service
(iii) they have editorial responsibility for the use of all and any content included within the AP Television News service and for libel, privacy, compliance and third party rights applicable to their Territory.