New Zealander Robett Hollis has videoed the destruction of suburbs by fires in northern California.

His brother-in-law Manuel Avila lives in the area and is a Mill Valley firefighter.

Hollis' video, shot in Santa Rosa on Tuesday, shows the ash and charred remains of homes.

He said Avila and his wife were lucky. Their home was spared although fire had come within 1km of it.

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Avila had left, but returned to look the house, which was no longer in the evacuation zone.

Vehicles destroyed by the fires in Sonoma, California. Photo / Robett Hollis, Facebook
Vehicles destroyed by the fires in Sonoma, California. Photo / Robett Hollis, Facebook

Hollis, an Auckland businessman, described scenes of widespread destruction of buildings and vehicles - and social anarchy.

"It was just every man for himself. The two-way street became a four-way highway with everyone driving on the wrong side to get out.

"There's some looting and stuff going on."

More than 1000 homes had been destroyed by fire in one area and more than 100 people were still missing.

"There's no power, no gas, the entire town is shut down," said Hollis. "It was hard trying to get in. We stocked up a truck with everything to be able to hand out to survivors.

"We went up with all our gear to help - generator, gas and everything. They reckon it's going to be at least a week before they get power the back on.

The ash and smoking ruins after wildfires ripped through Sonoma, California. Photo / Robett Hollis, Facebook
The ash and smoking ruins after wildfires ripped through Sonoma, California. Photo / Robett Hollis, Facebook
An intact chimney in a burned-out wasteland after the fires in Sonoma, California. Photo / Robett Hollis, Facebook
An intact chimney in a burned-out wasteland after the fires in Sonoma, California. Photo / Robett Hollis, Facebook