clear
Monday December 11th, 2017 12:23AM
1:33PM ( 10 hours ago ) Weather Alert

Californians under siege try to fight fires, find loved ones

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

SONOMA, Calif. (AP) — They are trying to find lost loved ones, to sift through the remains of lost homes, to count, identify and mourn the dozens of dead — all while the fires rage on.

The communities of Northern California were preparing for another day under siege Friday, despite being driven to exhaustion by evacuations, destruction and danger amid the deadliest week of wildfires the state has ever seen.

"It wears you out," said winemaker Kristin Belair, who was driving back from Lake Tahoe to her as-yet-unburnt home in Napa. "Anybody who's been in a natural disaster can tell you that it goes on and on. I think you just kind of do hour by hour almost."

The death toll had climbed to an unprecedented 31, and was expected to keep rising. Individual fires including the Oakland Hills blaze of 1991 had killed more people than any one of the current fires, but no collection of simultaneous fires in California had ever led to so many deaths, authorities said.

"We had series of statewide fires in 2003, 2007, 2008 that didn't have anything close to this death count," said Daniel Berlant, a deputy director with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Hundreds more were injured or missing.

Real recovery would have to wait for firefighters to bring under control the 21 wildfires spanning more than 300 square miles (777 square kilometers). Most were less than 10 percent contained. New evacuations were still being ordered for fires that broke out on Sunday night.

"We are not even close to being out of this emergency," said Mark Ghilarducci, director of the state's Office of Emergency Services.

Choking smoke hung thick in the fire counties and drifted all over the San Francisco Bay Area, where masks to filter the fumes were becoming a regular uniform and the sunsets were blood-red from the haze.

"It's acrid now," said Wayne Petersen in Sonoma. "I'm wearing the mask because I've been here two or three days now, I live here, said Wayne Petersen in Sonoma. "It's starting to really affect my breathing and lungs so I'm wearing the mask. It's helping."

Even some members of the Oakland Raiders were wearing the masks during workouts Thursday.

The fires drove hundreds of evacuees northward to beaches, some sleeping on the sand on the first night of the blazes.

Since then, authorities have brought tents and sleeping bags and opened public buildings and restaurants to house people seeking refuge in the safety and clean air of the coastal community of Bodega Bay, where temperatures drop dramatically at night.

"The kids were scared," said Patricia Ginochio, who opened her seaside restaurant for some 300 people to sleep. "They were shivering and freezing."

California Highway Patrol Officer Quintin Shawk took relatives and other evacuees into his home and office, as did many others.

"It's like a refugee camp," Shawk said.

Teams with cadaver dogs began a grim search Thursday for more dead, resorting in some cases to serial numbers stamped on medical implants to identify remains in charred ruins.

Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano said officials were still investigating hundreds of reports of missing people and that recovery teams would begin conducting "targeted searches" for specific residents at their last known addresses.

"We have found bodies almost completely intact, and we have found bodies that were nothing more than ash and bones," said the sheriff, whose office released the names of 10 of the dead, all age 57 or older, on Thursday.

Some remains have been identified using medical devices uncovered in the scorched heaps that were once homes. Metal implants, such as artificial hips, have ID numbers that helped put names to victims, he said. Distinctive tattoos have helped identify some.

Since igniting Sunday in spots across eight counties, the fires have transformed many neighborhoods into wastelands. At least 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed and an estimated 25,000 people forced to flee.

Fire officials were investigating whether downed power lines or other utility failures could have sparked the fires.

Some lucky evacuees returned to find what they least expected.

Anna Brooner was prepared to find rubble and ashes after fleeing Santa Rosa's devastated Coffey Park neighborhood.

Then she got a call from a friend: "You're not going to believe this." Her home was one of only a handful still standing.

"I swore when I left I was never coming back to this place," Brooner said. "I feel so bad for all the other people. All of us came back thinking we had nothing left."

___

Dalton reported from San Francisco. Associated Press writers Olga R. Rodriguez and Janie Har in San Francisco, Jonathan J. Cooper in Santa Rosa and Brian Skoloff in Calistoga contributed to this report.

___

Follow the AP's complete wildfire coverage here: https://apnews.com/tag/Wildfires .

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP World News
© Copyright 2017 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
In Weinstein saga, Rose McGowan emerges as powerful voice
Rose McGowan has shown she will not be easily silenced, emerging from a brief suspension on Twitter Thursday to post her most pointed allegation at disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein
3:11AM ( 6 minutes ago )
Californians under siege try to fight fires, find loved ones
Northern California communities have been battered by four days under siege from wildfires that are nowhere near over
3:09AM ( 9 minutes ago )
Yanks pick up Girardi, get fresh start in 1st ALCS since '12
The New York Yankees picked up Joe Girardi and now are in a fresh series with a chance for their first World Series since 2009
2:51AM ( 26 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
The Latest: California wildfires bring record 31 deaths
Northern California's wildfires have now killed 31 people _ making this the deadliest week of wildfires in state history
1:25AM ( 1 hour ago )
Cubs come back on Scherzer, top Nationals 9-8 in NLDS Game 5
Addison Russell drove in four runs, Wade Davis earned a seven-out save, and the Chicago Cubs reached their third NL Championship Series in a row by edging the Washington Nationals 9-8 in a thriller of a Game 5.
1:21AM ( 1 hour ago )
Thais mark 1 year since king's death with prayers, ceremony
Thais marked one year since the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej with solemn ceremonies and acts of personal devotion before an elaborate five-day funeral later this month
1:19AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Trump to halt subsidies to health insurers
President Donald Trump plans to halt payments to insurers under the Obama-era health care law he has been trying to unravel for months
11:57PM ( 3 hours ago )
The Latest: Democrats slam new Trump health policy
President Donald Trump plans to halt payments to insurers under the Obama-era health care law that he has been trying to unravel for months
11:18PM ( 3 hours ago )
Couple described as adventure-seekers are free from captors
The wife and husband who were held hostage for five years in Afghanistan are being described as adventure-seekers who wanted to see areas of the world infrequently traveled by Westerners
11:13PM ( 4 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
In Weinstein saga, Rose McGowan emerges as powerful voice
Rose McGowan has shown she will not be easily silenced, emerging from a brief suspension on Twitter Thursday to post her most pointed allegation at disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein
3:11AM ( 7 minutes ago )
Yanks pick up Girardi, get fresh start in 1st ALCS since '12
The New York Yankees picked up Joe Girardi and now are in a fresh series with a chance for their first World Series since 2009
2:51AM ( 27 minutes ago )
South Korea, China extend currency deal despite missile row
South Korea, China extend their currency swap despite tensions over U.S. missile defense system
2:42AM ( 36 minutes ago )
Dangerous sound? What Americans heard in Cuba attacks
The Associated Press has obtained a recording of what some U.S. embassy workers heard in Havana as they were attacked by what investigators initially believed was a sonic weapon
2:41AM ( 36 minutes ago )
LEADING OFF: Yankees-Astros open ALCS, Cubs-Dodgers in NLCS
LEADING OFF: Yankees-Astros open ALCS, Cubs-Dodgers in NLCS
2:18AM ( 1 hour ago )