Firefighters douse hot spots in the Coffey Park area of Santa Rosa, Calif., on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. 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. AP/BEN MARGO

California Firestorm Took Deadly Toll on Elderly;

Average Age of Victims Identified so far is 79

Among the dozen people identified by Sonoma and Napa county officials as of late Thursday, the average age of those who died was 79. The youngest victim was 57, the oldest 100.

BY ALENE TCHEKMEDYIAN AND ESMERALDA BERMUDEZ, LOS ANGELES TIMES OCTOBER 13, 2017 

Compliments GovTech.com

(TNS) – As authorities begin to identify those killed in the wildfires raging across Northern California, a grim pattern is emerging.

Among the dozen people identified by Sonoma and Napa county officials as of late Thursday, the average age of those who died was 79. The youngest victim was 57, the oldest 100.

“The bulk of them are in their 70s and 80s, so there is that commonality,” Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano told reporters at a news briefing.

A majority were found inside their homes, unable to escape as the fire bore down. At least one was confined to a wheelchair. Another was lying next to a vehicle.

The trend highlights a risk for elderly people when a natural disaster strikes: Health problems may limit mobility. They may no longer drive, and often live in areas with unreliable cellphone service.

In Sonoma County, where most of the fatalities occurred, 18% of the population is over the age of 62, compared with 11% for all of California.

“With any sort of disaster … the elderly may not have transportation, they may not have access to evacuate as fast as possible,” said Sonoma County spokesman Scott Alonso. “They may be wheelchair-bound, they may have access issues — those folks may take more care to evacuate safely.”

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