Firefighters are continuing to fight the fast-spreading flames in California while coping with the 220,000 acres that have already been scorched. As of now, at least 40 people have been reported dead and over 300 are still missing due to the massive fires that are taking over California. As more than 20,000 people evacuate and over 3,500 structures get destroyed, we can help but wonder: how did this happen?

Strong Winds:

The first suspected cause for this devastation is the strong wind. The region experienced powerful wind gusts of 50mph, which made it easier for the blaze to spread. Hurricane-force wind gusts of 79 mph were reported in Sonoma County, sending the deadly flames across the county.

Timing:

The second suspected cause for this devastation is timing. The fires crept up on locals in the middle of the night, when most were asleep. A brief timeline of the fire suggests the three largest fires started between 9 and 11 p.m. Sunday, according to Cal. Fire. This was around the time most residents were settling down for bed, causing some to not evacuate in time.

Vegetation:

The third suspected cause for this devastation is dried vegetation. Officials suspect dried vegetation is fueling the flames. According to Cal. Fire, the accumulated dead vegetation increased the likelihood of a wildfire this strong. The fires torched 20,000 acres in about 12 hours on last Monday alone, and the dry vegetation was a key component.

Dry Conditions:

The fourth and final suspected cause of devastation is the dry conditions. Although October has been experiencing rain in Northern California, it is seasonally when the area experiences more of its wildfires. Since the fires have started, they have been thriving on low humidity and dry conditions.

Authorities are now reportedly urging Napa residents to pack "ready-to-go bags" with documents and medication in case they need to evacuate quickly. More than 20,000 people have been ordered to evacuate in cities across Northern California. As destruction spreads, New York native and recent San Francisco local Danielle Kerendian shared her experience with the fires.

“I woke up Monday morning with a horrible sore throat, stuffy nose, and sinus pressure. I attributed it to being a little under the weather but as soon as I walked out my door I knew something wasn’t right. The air was filled with smoke and I felt like I was at a campfire. I looked at the news and realized what was happening-- massive forest fires throughout Northern California. People were dying and over 1,500 buildings were burned down. Several of my friend’s families had to evacuate their homes, leaving pets and important belongings behind. By Wednesday it had become national news, even sparking conversation from the President. Being a native New Yorker, it was a scary experience. I’ve been in touch with my dad and he told me to wear a mask so as not to inhale the smoke. My company also sent out a newsletter about the devastation-- making sure employees stay safe and offering volunteering opportunities for those who want to help. People are donating clothes, food, and sleeping blankets to areas most affected. My boyfriend’s friend even assisted with evacuations.”

As of now, schools are canceled for the rest of the week in Napa County and some cancellations of flights due to smoke at San Francisco International Airport.