Death Toll From Northern California Fires Rises to 42 - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
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Death Toll From Northern California Fires Rises to 42

Cal Fire hopes to fully contain the rash of wildfires by Friday

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    NEWSLETTERS

    In California's hard-hit wine-making region, tens of thousands of people began drifting back to their neighborhoods after wildfires swept through last week. Some returned to find their homes gone. Cheryl Hurd reports. (Published Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017)

    The death toll from Northern California's destructive wildfires rose to 42 Wednesday after the remains of another person were found in Sonoma County.

    Spokeswoman Misti Harris said the county is working on identifying its 23rd victim. 

    Others killed in the fire include eight in Mendocino County, six in Napa County and four in Yuba County. A water tender driver was also killed after the truck they were driving overturned on a winding and steep mountain road in Napa County.

    Of the roughly 2,060 missing persons reports in Sonoma County, a total of 50 people remained outstanding as of Wednesday, Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano said. Authorities say they are conducting targeted searches for victims and the work is slow-going.

    However, a spokesman for the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office says he doesn't expect the death toll to go much higher.

    Sgt. Spencer Crum said Wednesday that the "number of dead people we're finding has really slowed down'' and that many people listed as missing have been located safely.

    Half of the 53 missing person reports are for homeless people, and Crum doesn't believe they perished in fires because they did not live in areas hardest hit by fire. He said many missing person reports are made by people who haven't seen the individual in years but thinks that person was last in Sonoma County.

    Napa County reported Tuesday that eight people remained on its missing person list.

    The wind-whipped fires that started Oct. 8 swept through parts of seven counties, destroying 5,700 homes and businesses and becoming the deadliest and most destructive series of blazes in California history.

    Containment numbers for the Tubbs, Pocket, Nuns and Oakmont fires, which ignited last week and swiftly ripped through neighborhoods and businesses, have been steadily improving over the past several days, according to Cal Fire. 

    Light rain forecast in Northern California is expected to help firefighters battling the remains of wildfires that have burned for more than a week in wine country.

    National Weather Service meteorologist Ryan Walbrun said about a tenth of an inch of rain is expected Thursday night.

    He said it won't be enough to drench fires, but the precipitation combined with moist winds should help.

    Daniel Berlant, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, says crews did controlled burns to wipe out fuel needed by wildfires to spread.

    Tens of thousands of evacuees are returning to their homes, although more than 30,000 were evacuated as of Tuesday morning. That number is down considerably from Saturday when an estimated 100,000 people had been forced out of their homes.

    As of Wednesday, the Atlas Fire has burned 51,064 acres in Napa and Solano counties and is 83 percent contained; the Tubbs Fire has scorched 36,432 acres in Napa County and is 91 percent contained; the Nuns Fire, which includes the Partrick, Adobe, Norbbom, Pressley and Oakmont fires, has burned 54,423 acres in Sonoma and Napa counties and is 80 percent contained; and the Pocket Fire has burned 12,430 acres in Sonoma County and is 63 percent contained.

    Farther north, the Sulphur Fire in Lake County has torched 2,207 acres and is 92 percent contained, and the Redwood Valley Fire in Mendocino County has charred 35,800 acres and is 75 percent contained.

    Cal Fire hopes to fully contain the rash of wildfires by Friday.

    The progress comes as firefighters elsewhere are working to gain control of a 300-acre fire that erupted late Monday in a heavily-forested area of the Santa Cruz Mountains.