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natural disaster

For some in New England, the deadly fires in California are a reminder of when fires overtook much of Maine around this time of year, 70 years ago. Wildfires in 1947 simultaneously burned over hundreds of miles for ten days, wiping out towns, and forever changing the landscape. 

The speed and ferocity of the wildfires raging through Northern California's wine country have caught many residents off guard and left state officials scrambling to contain the flames.

But for fire researchers, these devastating blazes are part of a much larger pattern unfolding across the Western United States. So far this year, fires in the U.S. have consumed more than 8.5 million acres — an area bigger than the state of Maryland.

Updated at 6:30 p.m. ET

Thousands more people were fleeing their homes as some of the worst wildfires in California's history continued to sweep through wine country, leaving a trail of smoldering destruction and a death toll that authorities say has reached 31.

Updated at 11:40 p.m. ET

In the outbreak of powerful and destructive fires that have struck California since Sunday, there are now 22 large wildfires burning in the state. They've caused at least 23 deaths and scorched nearly 170,000 acres, officials said Wednesday.

Updated at 6:17 p.m. ET

At least 15 people have died in intense wildfires that have destroyed thousands of buildings in Northern California, where firefighters are battling 17 large blazes in the state's wine country, including Napa and Sonoma counties. Together, they've burned 115,000 acres, according to Cal Fire.

Updated at 8:08 p.m. ET.

As many as 10 people have died in wildfires that erupted in Northern California over the weekend, forcing residents in the wine country north of San Francisco to flee as homes went up in flames. At least 1,500 structures have been destroyed and 20,000 people evacuated, according to member station KQED.

Ken Cedeno / International Medical Corps

Dr. Robert Fuller visited five primary clinics in Puerto Rico Wednesday -- gong clockwise around the island from San Juan to Arroyo and then north to Caguas.  

Ken Cedeno / International Medical Corps

Most of Puerto Rico still has no power or running water one week after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

As Puerto Rico begins a slow recovery from Hurricane Maria's destruction, many Puerto Ricans in Connecticut are struggling to find ways to help  family members in need of food and water.

Ken Cedeno / International Medical Corps

Robert Fuller was loading his car with supplies in San Juan, getting ready to leave the battered capital for a trip inland to survey damage to local health facilities, when we caught up with him by phone.

Lori Mack/WNPR

New Haven has been given a class 7 rating by the National Flood Insurance Program. That’s the highest rating available in the state. 

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

In a tiny sliver of shade, on a hill next to Puerto Rico's Route 65, Kiara Rodriguez de Jesus waves a sparkly pink hand fan to keep cool.

"I trust in God," she says. "Please, come the gas."

Along with her family, parked in a Volvo SUV, she has been in line for gasoline since 3 a.m., she says. Now it's after 1:30 p.m. And like everyone else at this gas station, she has no idea how much longer she'll be waiting.

Irma Rivera Aviles, like nearly 200 others, is stuck at a shelter in Cataño, Puerto Rico, where conditions are getting worse daily. Nearly a week after Hurricane Maria rampaged through the country, she's desperately pleading for help. "The governor needs to come here and take a look at our critical situation," she says. "The bathrooms flooded and aren't working, sewage is overflowing, the generator is broken and we are here in the dark."

"We desperately need water, power and ice," she says.

On the side of a busy expressway in northern Puerto Rico, dozens of cars stand in a line, parked at careless angles off the shoulder. Drivers hold their phones out of car windows; couples walk along the grass raising their arm skyward.

This is not a picturesque stretch of road. It's about 90 degrees out, and the sun is beating down relentlessly. All you can hear is the rumble of cars and trucks passing by, sometimes dangerously close. Then, inside a Ford Escape near the edge of the highway, Casandra Caba exclaims, "Look!"

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