Amid stark scenes of residential neighborhoods in northern California reduced to cinders, medical device maker Medtronic said Tuesday that its two buildings in fire-ravaged Santa Rosa, Calif., are still standing but inaccessible for the time being.

"We have some initial, positive observations of our Fountaingrove and Coffey Lane facilities, which were at most risk of being impacted by the fires. We are working to gain additional information regarding the specific impacts and damages sustained," Medtronic spokesman Fernando Vivanco wrote in an e-mail to the Star Tribune. "We will have additional information on site impacts once we can gain access to facilities."

Asked what was meant by "positive observations," Vivanco wrote, " 'positive' in this case means the facility did not burn down."

As the fires' deadly toll rose, photos of the hardest-hit areas north of the Bay Area depicted the devastation: smoldering networks of roads where homes once stood, anguished homeowners assessing the scene.

A brick chimney loomed in place, marking the site of one house. Melted chrome oozed from burned cars in a driveway.

California crews were battling 17 large wildfires around the state Tuesday. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in several counties including Sonoma and Napa.

The Tubbs Fire began Sunday evening and quickly burned its way toward Santa Rosa, destroying a "significant number of commercial and residential structures," California fire officials said. Decreasing winds and cooler weather overnight Monday allowed firefighters to make good progress in battling the blazes.

Vivanco said Tuesday that Medtronic was reaching out to employees in Santa Rosa and surrounding Sonoma County using automated phone and text-message systems as a way to assess the impact.

Most of the affected employees had responded by Tuesday, he said. The company has not specified how many people it employs in the area.

Medtronic's Fountaingrove operation in Santa Rosa primarily contains administrative offices and research-and-development operations for vascular and heart devices. The Coffee Lane building is used primarily for warehousing of materials and product storage.

The buildings appeared to be within the mandatory evacuation zone declared in Santa Rosa.

Medtronic's nearby Brickway and Skylane facilities were not directly affected by the fires, but they remained difficult to access as of Tuesday.

Joe Carlson • 612-673-4779