Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano said Thursday night that two more people have been confirmed dead there.
Death toll now at 29 as Yuba County says four dead, possibly a fifth victim to come
Yuba County officials now say they believe four people have died in the Cascade Fire, and that possibly a fifth victim will be found. That brings the death toll from fires since Sunday to at least 29, the same number killed in California’s deadliest blaze, the 1933 Griffith Park blaze in Los Angeles. The current death toll stems from different fires: 15 dead in Sonoma County, eight dead in Mendocino, two in Napa and four in Yuba.
Fires being fought in city of Sonoma as death toll continues to mount
Sonoma County officials say the death toll from wildfires from that county alone is now at 15, bringing the statewide total since Sunday to 29 fatalities. Sheriff Rob Giordano said the county also has had reports of 1,000 missing persons, and that 603 of those have been located and are safe.
Most of the 400 others likely will be found, but Giordano has made it clear that he expects the death toll from the fires to continue to mount as officials get into burned out neighborhoods and begin recovery efforts.
The danger to area communities continues, officials said, with active fires burning in and around the city of Sonoma. Calistoga remains under an evacuation order. Those cities, as well as Geyserville and Middletown, are communities that fire officials say are still under imminent threat.
Officials also revealed the first estimates of the destruction that hit Santa Rosa Sunday night, when entire neighborhoods were wiped out. Officials say 2,834 homes were destroyed along with 400,010 square feet of commercial space.
Death toll continues to increase, with Mendocino County now reporting total of eight
Cal Fire says the death toll from California’s wildfires continues to increase, with a total of 26 since the blazes erupted in the north state Sunday night. The latest tally includes a total of eight from Mendocino County, where the Sulphur and Redwood Valley fires have been burning and where officials are deeply concerned about the prospect of high winds on Friday night.
Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott said Thursday that 21 large fires now burning have scorched more than 191,000 acres and that 8,000 firefighters – including teams from as far away as North Carolina and South Carolina – are battling the blazes.
The state has 42 shelters set up that accommodated 4,800 people Wednesday night.
Road closures in fire-ravaged areas
Caltrans updated a road closure map for the areas affected by the Northern California fires:
Dixon fairgrounds opened
The Dixon May fairgrounds has been opened as a shelter to people fleeing Northern California wildfires.
Hundreds have arrived since the shelter opened Thursday morning, according to a fairgrounds receptionist. No supplies, personnel or other resources are presently needed, according to the Dixon Police Department.
Additionally, the Sacramento Police Department’s Youth Services Unit is holding a toy donation drive for affected families at the Walmart at 5821 Antelope Dr. until 1 p.m. They’ll hand-deliver new toys as well as hygiene equipment to designated sites Friday.
The Sonoma County toll now stands at 14 dead, 463 still missing
Death toll grows
Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano says 14 bodies have now been recovered from wildfires in his area, bringing the total dead from Northern California’s wildfires to 24.
Another 463 people remain missing, Giordano said, out of a total of 900 who have been reported missing the fires began Sunday night.
Many of those missing are expected to be found safe, the sheriff said, but the death toll is expected to continue to increase.
“I’d be unrealistic if I didn’t” think more bodies will be found, the sheriff said.
Search and rescue teams are using cadaver dogs and going to specific addresses of people reported missing. The condition of the victims has varied depending on how the fires swept over them.
“That is the reality of it,” Giordano said. “This next part is the rest of the reality: identification is going to be hard.
“So far in the recoveries, we have found bodies that were almost completely intact, and we have found bodies that were nothing more than ash and bones. There have been identifications in this case in a pile of ash and bones where there was a piece of metal left from somebody’s surgery like a hip replacement with an ID number on it and that helped us identify the person.”
Giordano added that some recoveries will have to wait until it is safe for teams to go into some neighborhoods.
“I promise you that we will handle the remains with care,” he said, adding, “We need to respect the loved ones and the families of the dead.”
Sonoma County has been the hardest hit of the fire zones, with thousands of people displaced and countless homes and businesses burned.
It also has been the scene of multiple arrests for looting. So far, the sheriff said, five people have been arrested on suspicion of looting, including two arrested inside a mandatory evacuation zone Wednesday night. Roughly 300 law enforcement officers, many of them from Bay Area departments, are patrolling the county along with 436 National Guard troops.
Shelter to open at Cal Expo
An American Red Cross shelter will open Thursday at Cal Expo for people displaced by wildfires in Northern California. Supply vehicles are expected to arrive soon, Red Cross spokesman Stephen Walsh said, followed by an undetermined number of guests.
The Red Cross will provide bedding, food and water plus counseling and basic medical services, Walsh said. Another shelter is being established Thursday at Contra Costa Community College in San Pablo.
Cal Fire has confirmed 22 homes and several outbuildings were destroyed by the McCourtney and Lobo Fires in Nevada County. Residents who want to know if their homes were destroyed are encouraged to call 530-265-1218. The fires burned less than 1,000 acres combined.
Butte County will open a hotline at noon for residents affected by the LaPorte Fire (6,059 acres, 25 percent contained) and Cherokee Fire (8,360 acres, 60 percent contained). Residents who believe their homes may have burned can call 530-538-6824 from noon to 5 p.m. Thursday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday for verification and information about local resources.
Cascade Fire at 45 percent containment
Firefighters reached 45 percent containment on the Cascade Fire on Thursday morning, beginning to suppress one of the infernos terrorizing Northern California this week.
The fire has burned 10,171 acres of the Yuba County town of Loma Rica, killing at least four people and demolishing entire neighborhoods.
Twenty-three people in Napa, Sonoma, Yuba and Mendocino counties have died and hundreds remain missing in this week’s fires, which began Sunday night as 75 mph gusts swept Northern California. Each of the 22 fires’ cause remains undetermined.
In Sonoma County, where 13 of the dead were found, the Tubbs Fire has spread to 34,270 acres and is 10 percent contained, as of early Thursday. Fires have so far spared the town of Sonoma, but The Press-Democrat reported deputies circled the main plaza Wednesday night, urging residents to evacuate over loudspeakers.
California Highway Patrol officers also went door-to-door in select neighborhoods urging residents to consider evacuating.
Residents in a rural community just north of town received mandatory evacuation orders Wednesday night. The Napa County Sheriff’s Office has also issued evacuation warnings to some residents in the city of Napa.
In Mendocino County, Kai Shepherd, 14, of Redwood Valley, was reportedly found dead in his family’s driveway. Shepherd’s mother and sister each suffered burns on about 60 percent of their bodies, according to a Generosity.com page established by Shepherd’s aunt Mindi Ramos. Shepherd’s father sustained burns on 45 percent of his body.
Benjy Egel: 916-321-1052; @BenjyEgel