A former Calgarian who now calls the United States home says the people of California are no strangers to wildfires during the dry season, but she's never seen anything like the fires now raging through the northern part of the state.

T.C. Moore and her partner recently bought a house in Santa Rosa, Calif. The city was particularly hard hit by a fire that ripped through it Sunday.

Moore, who grew up in Calgary, says she woke up early Sunday morning to the smell of smoke after a particularly windy night, something Moore says Californians often smell.

"When i stepped outside, that's when I realized how serious the situation was because I just thought it was just foggy but it was actually smoke," Moore told the Calgary Eyeopener Thursday.

"I could hear transformers exploding, trees exploding, and that's when reality struck."

The wildfires raging through California's wine country are on their way to becoming the deadliest and most destructive in California history, fire officials in the state said Thursday.

So far, 29 people have been confirmed dead, and 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed by the 22 fires spanning more than 773 square kilometres.

California fire in Santa Rosa

T.C. Moore and her partner recently bought a house in Santa Rosa, Calif. The city was particularly hard hit by a fire that ripped through it Sunday. (Submitted by T.C. Moore/Lucid Art Foundation)

Ferocious winds

Moore says she believes the fires were sparked by trees hitting power lines and driven by intense winds and low humidity.

"The winds were so ferocious, you wish they were a Chinook wind, but they just whip and change direction simultaneously," she said.

Despite being unprepared, Moore and her partner fled their home — she to her office in neighbouring Marin County, he to an evacuation centre.

"We just grabbed the most absurd things," she said. "He took the cat. I took the dog."

"When I looked back on the 101, I could just see a wall of flame."

She is now waiting out the evacuation at her place of work, while her partner has returned home, armed with sprinklers and sprinkler heads, hoping to stop any embers that threaten their home and surrounding land.


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener