Wildfires ravaging neighborhoods in the north Bay Area are causing disruptions to Internet and phone service in Del Norte County, including the 911 system.

Dispatch at the Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office are unable to determine where a 911 caller is at unless they ask them, said sheriff’s Cmdr. Bill Steven on Wednesday. The fire also reduced dispatch’s ability to take more than one 911 call at a time, he said.

“As it stands right now if a person calls 911, anybody else is going to wait — they’ll probably get a busy signal,” Steven said. “It’s limited our ability to do more than one (911 call) and it’s taken out our location services. We’re still chugging along, though.”

Sheriff’s dispatch can still take emergency calls on its non-emergency line, 707-464-4191, Steven said.

California firefighters are battling 22 large blazes that have burned nearly 170,000 acres, according to a CAL FIRE press release Wednesday. Seventeen people are confirmed dead and at least 3,500 homes and commercial buildings have been destroyed. Gov. Jerry Brown has issued emergency declarations for Napa, Sonoma, Yuba, Butte, Lake, Mendocino, Nevada, Orange and Solano counties.

The fires also damaged telecommunication lines belonging to AT&T, disrupting service for some of its Northern California wireless customers, according to company spokesman Leland Kim. AT&T’s Network Disaster Recovery team deployed numerous mobile cell phone sites to Santa Rosa, Willets and the Napa Town & County Fairgrounds to provide support for wildfire incident commanders.

“We are working to restore service as quickly as conditions allow,” Kim said via e-mail Tuesday. “Our Network Disaster Recovery and local network teams are deploying a number of resources, including temporary cell sites to the area.”

In Del Norte, businesses and agencies impacted by the Internet and phone disruptions include Coast Central Credit Union, College of the Redwoods and the Crescent City post office.

The fires may also be the culprit for slowing down credit card readers at the Walmart store in Crescent City, manager Peter Davis said.

“It’s taken a few swipes to get them to connect with the server,” he said.

Employees at the post office could only conduct transactions if the customer had cash or checks on Tuesday, said Sarah Asp, the officer in charge. The post office’s Internet was down all day Monday and Tuesday, she said.

Tellers at Coast Central Credit Union couldn’t pull up members’ bank balances or input information on Tuesday, said Robert Machado, member services manager for the Crescent City branch. He said his employees would have to manually input customer information into the system.

“Since we can’t receive balances (we’re acting) on a good faith type of thing,” he said. “The good thing is we know most of our members, so it’s not that bad.”

Internet access at College of the Redwoods’ Del Norte, Klamath-Trinity and Eureka campuses went down at about 4 p.m. Sunday. According to Steve Roper, the college’s director of information-technology, CR is part of the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California, or CENIC, a consortium that provides Internet access to most of the state’s K-12 schools, community colleges and universities. Roper said CENIC is down in several parts of the state.

Spectrum is the Internet provider at the Del Norte campus, Roper said, but it comes to Eureka through the AT&T line. Wireless Internet is still available to students at its main campus in Eureka through Suddenlink, he said.

“It’s a very large outage,” he said. “It isn’t just AT&T that’s down, there was other equipment that was burned in various fires; that’s affecting things as well.”

Reach Jessica Cejnar at jcejnar@triplicate.com.

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