California fires have killed at least 23 people and hundreds are missing. Picture: NBC

The fire ravaged US state of California is facing up to further bad news after runaway fires have killed at least 23 people with hundreds reported as missing.
Officials fear that renewed high winds that are fanning numerous "catastrophic" fires could take the crisis to the next level.

Nearly 300 people are missing, but police say that may be due to the chaotic nature of evacuations, the BBC reported. Police officers are trying to track down the missing.

Entire towns in the state's wine-producing region have been abandoned. At least 13 of the deaths have occurred in Sonoma County.

The fires are among the deadliest in California's history and have sent smoke as far south as San Francisco, 100km away. Tens of thousands of people are without power and thousands homeless.

CNN reported that in some areas in Sonoma County, the wildfires that have ravaged tens of thousands of acres. Detectives are using telephones to track down hundreds of people who are unaccounted for.

The wind known as the Diablo is picking up again and the ground is tinder dry, making for fertile fire territory.

More than 200 fire engines and crews are being rushed to California from the rest of the US, officials said.

Among the victims were Charles Rippey, 100, and his wife, Sara, 98, who had recently celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary and who died on Sunday at their home in Napa.