Images show how wildfires are ravaging Northern California's wine country

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Raging wildfires in northern California have forced 20,000 residents to evacuate and destroyed more than 1,500 structures, officials said Monday.

Wildfires whipped by powerful winds swept through Northern California, sending residents on a headlong flight to safety through smoke and flames as homes burned.

Cal Fire listed updated acreages for a few of the many blazes, including Tubbs Fire in Napa County, 20,000 acres; Altas Fire in Napa County, 5,000 acres; and the Redwood Fire in Mendocino County, 4,500 acres.

"Probably many homes and businesses, in the outskirts of Santa Rosa and the city itself", she said. The largest was in the area of Porter Creek Road and Petrified Forest Road near Calistoga where mandatory evacuations were ordered for residents along Porter Creek, Petrified Forest, Franz Valley and Mountain Home Ranch Rd.

Pimlott said firefighters are concentrating on saving lives rather than battling the blazes. "Winds will continue to gust between 35 and 45 miles per hour with locally stronger gusts up to 55 miles per hour in the highest mountains".

Smoke from the fires has drifted across all parts of the Bay Area, as far south as San Jose.

"There are fires burning in a handful of areas, but Napa is the primary focus because it started there first", Jourdan said.

Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency shortly after 9 a.m. PDT today for Napa, Sonoma and Yuba Counties. Community centers, the Sonoma County Fairgrounds and other local centers were opened for evacuees.

Cal Fire is keeping track of three other fires in Napa, Sonoma and Lake Counties.

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Wesley Carr, 23, a resident of Sebastopol in Sonoma County, said on Monday morning that smoke from the fires had enveloped the area. The winds were expected to subside at midday.

Mass evacuations are taking place and emergency phone systems are "inundated", as the wildfires rage.

"We had very strong gusts", Biermann said.

"In a situation like this, it is really important that we be the best we can be", he said.

"I'm probably not going to", she says.

In Santa Rosa, the fire burned through the Sky Farm subdivision above Santa Rosa's Fountaingrove neighborhood and raced down the hill toward the Larkfield-Wikiup area.

In Santa Rosa, the Fountain Grove Inn and Hotel was destroyed and another hotel, the Hilton, was in flames, the affiliate reported.

Though he was rushing to escape the flames, Larsen also looked out for his neighbor who lived up the street.