SONOMA – Reinforcements from other regions are helping firefighters contain more of the largest wildfires devastating Northern California, though strong winds expected over the weekend could challenge those gains, a fire chief said Friday.
Meanwhile, officials are making grim discoveries — victims burnt beyond recognition — as they search blackened ruins of some of the 5,700 homes and business that have been destroyed.
“Some of (the remains) are merely ashes and bones,” Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano said at a Thursday news conference. “And we may never get truly confirmative identification on ashes. When you’re cremated, you can’t get an ID.”
Thirty-six people have been killed since the wildfires began Sunday night, making this outbreak one of the deadliest in state history, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).
Firefighters are making progress on some of the bigger fires, Napa County Fire Chief Barry Biermann said Friday, thanks in large part to the gumption of those who’ve been on the lines for days and the reinforcements who are relieving them.
“It’s like pulling teeth to get law enforcement and firefighters to disengage from what they’re doing out there — they’re truly passionate about what they’re doing to help the public. But the reinforcements are coming in, and that’s why you’re seeing the progress that we’re making,” Biermann said.
Since Sunday, the deadly fires have consumed thousands of homes and forced evacuations in Northern California’s wine country and produced unhealthy air quality in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Though progress has been made on the big fires, much more work is ahead.
The 48,000-plus acre Atlas fire in Napa and Solano counties was 27 per cent contained Friday — up from three per cent the day earlier. The 44,000-acre Nuns fire in Sonoma County — an amalgamation of three recently merged fires north and west of Glen Ellen — was five per cent contained.
The 34,000-acre Tubbs fire in Napa and Sonoma counties was 25 per cent under control. The 34,000-acre Redwood and Potter fires in Mendocino County were 10% contained.