Dozens Still Missing As Wine Country Wildfires Wane; New Fire Erupts In Santa Cruz
The wildfires that have destroyed 6,000 homes and caused dozens of deaths across Northern California last week have finally been brought to heel as slackening winds allowed the 9,000 firefighters deployed by Cal Fire to make meaningful advances in their battle against the flames. With the biggest fires mostly under control, some residents have begun to return to their homes. However, more than 40,000 remain displaced. Still, more than 40 people have been confirmed dead, and dozens remain missing - suggesting that the death toll for the deadliest fires in state history might continue to rise.
But as those fires wane, a new wildfire has ignited south of the San Francisco Bay Area in the mountains around Santa Cruz, forcing evacuations of residents east of Boulder Creek, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
More than 250 firefighters are battling the 125-acre Bear Fire in the area of Bear Creek Canyon Road, according to Cal Fire. Evacuations are in place for Deer Creek Road, Rons Road, Dons Road, Lost Valley Road, Favre Ridge and Oak Ridge. More than 100 structures are threatened by the fire, and already one building has been destroyed.
Further south, crews with air support were racing to stop a growing brush fire on Mount Wilson from destroying a historic observatory and communications towers northeast of Los Angeles. The blaze was initially estimated at around 5 acres (2 hectares). Officials say the observatory has been evacuated and the fire is not burning near foothill residences, Reuters reported.
One family that spoke with the Associated Press said their previous home in Middletown, Calif. burned down two years ago. Their new home in Sonoma, which is only 95% finished, was spared by the fires – but after this incident, they say they’ve about had it with California.
Jennifer Kelly and her husband and three sons lost their home and everything in it to a fire in Middletown in Lake County two years ago.
Now, with the new home 95 percent rebuilt, there are distant sirens, helicopters and tankers, plumes of smoke, on-again, off-again evacuation orders.
"I'm pretty anxious," she said Sunday in their new home, 95 percent complete. "We wake up a few times a night, one time last week we saw red on the horizon which was a little intimidating."
The Kellys are ready to evacuate. Since they started from scratch two years ago, aside from their pets there's not much to put in their van.
They have talked about what they'll do if it happens again: "We're moving far away, to Wyoming," she said.
Northern California search-and-rescue teams on Tuesday will continue to comb through burned homes for dozens of people still missing in the state’s deadliest wildfires, which have killed at least 41 people and destroyed thousands of homes.
As families return to try and salvage what they can from whatever’s left of their homes, California public safety officials ask that people take the proper precautions before digging through ash and other debris that could be laced with toxic chemicals from cleaning agents and other household products as well as insulation. Many have already inadvertently exposed themselves to toxic chemicals, according to the New York Times.
Investigators have yet to confirm what started the fire, but an investigation by the Los Angeles Times suggests that downed electrical wires at least contributed to the outbreak. The paper found that on the night of Oct. 8, shortly before the wildfires began, fire crews were dispatched to at least 10 spots in Sonoma County in response to reports of sparking electrical wires and exploding transformers.
This raises serious questions for the state’s publicly owned utilities as the incidence of fires caused by downed electrical wires has skyrocketed in recent years. And now, the deadliest wildfires in state history will likely force lawmakers ad regulators to hold them accountable.