Live fire updates: Death toll rises to at least 41 as 10,000 firefighters battle blazes

Death toll climbs

6 p.m.

Sonoma County’s latest update has 22 fatalities in the county, increasing the statewide total to 41 from the wildfires.

Mendocino County has nine victims, Napa County has six and Yuba County has four.

Fire retardant dropped tops 2 million gallons

4:42 p.m.

The latest on road closures

4:15 p.m.

Napa County now reporting six dead, bringing state total to 39

3:50 p.m.

Cal Fire now says six people have died in fires in Napa County, bringing the statewide total so far to at least 39 since Sunday.

Napa officials had been reporting four deaths previously. Another 20 have died in Sonoma County, nine in Mendocino County and four in Yuba County.

Sonoma County now tallying at least 20 dead from wildfires, bringing statewide total to at least 37

1:20 p.m.

A 20th victim has been found in the Fountaingrove area of Santa Rosa in Sonoma County, bringing the statewide total of deaths from this week’s wildfires to at least 37.

Sonoma sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Crum said there also are still 223 people missing, although he added that most of those likely will be found safe.

The deaths now confirmed include 19 from the Tubbs fire and one from the Nuns fire in Sonoma County, four in the Atlas Fire in Napa County, four from the Cascade Fire in Yuba County and nine in the Redwood Fire in Mendocino County.

86-year-old victim found in Mendocino County, bringing statewide death tally to at least 36

12:35 p.m.

Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman confirmed Saturday that a ninth victim of the Redwood Valley Fire had been found dead inside her burned home, bringing the statewide tally since Sunday to at least 36.

Allman said searchers found Margaret Stephenson, an 86-year-old widow and friend of the sheriff’s, inside her destroyed home on Tomki Road. Friends had feared she had died after they found her house destroyed and saw that a gate across her driveway was still closed.

Mendocino County and the close-knit community have been hard-hit by the deaths, which included 14-year-old Kai Shepherd, who as found dead in his family’s driveway after his parents and 17-year-old sister tried to flee teh falmes early Monday. They were badly burned and remain hospitalized.

“This is such an all-encompassing tragedy, to lose a 14-year-old boy, an elderly woman and her caretaker, a grandpa and grandma who died together,” Allman said, adding that he received a Halloween card from Stephenson 10 days ago.

Allman also gave the first official hint of how the blaze may have started, saying that witnesses saw a fallen power line spark the blaze.

“In 65 mph winds, a tree fell in Potter Valley, knocking over a power line, and it sparked a fire that went up the mountainside and went down into Redwood Valley around 1:30 a.m. Monday morning,” Allman said. “Cal Fire said we had gone 16 days in a row with low humidity … Here, the swath of fire was 10 miles wide.”

Allman said the fire struck an area that had never before burned, and said the region caught a break Friday night when strong winds that were predicted to sweep through did not materialize.

“We were expecting 30 mph winds and we didn’t get them,” Allman said.


Wine Country fires

Red circles or squares on this map are actively burning areas, as detected by satellite. Orange circles have burned in the past 12 to 24 hours, and yellow circles have burned within the past 48 hours. Yellow areas represent the fire perimeter.
Source: National Interagency Fire Center

Firefighters working in settings so perilous they are planning their own escape routes

11:50 p.m.

Fire crews are making a “very aggressive firefight” to save the Oakmont community in conditions so dangerous that firefighters are plotting their own escape routes and safety zones, authorities say.

“At our morning briefing, our incident commander said, ‘I’m asking you to knock it out and knock it out hard so we can get some headway out there,’ ” said fire spokesman Antonio Negrete, a paramedic with San Gabriel Fire Department at base camp at Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

Fire teams are hoping to hold off any advances in the fires through Sunday, when winds are expected to die down and allow them to work at increasing containment of the blazes. Southern California also remains a concern, with Santa Ana winds there expected to increase on Sunday.

In the north state, shifting winds are dumping ash and dense smoke into Santa Rosa from the fire burning in the Oakmont community as firefighters from Chula Vista to Corvallis, Ore., to Cosumnes Fire District in Elk Grove battle the swarm of fires dubbed the Central LNU Complex.

So far, at least 35 people have died, 5,700 structures have been destroyed, and the losses are expected to increase as more assessments and searches are completed.

Blaze in Oakmont area of Santa Rosa forces evacuation of juvenile detention center, thousands of residents

11 a.m.

The fight now is in the Oakmont area in the hills near Sonoma with a mandatory evacuation order for the area and crews defending homes and other structures.

From the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, where hundreds of firefighters were moving to and from hot spots, blooming smoke clouds could be seen curling against the hillsides. Winds kicked up to 40 mph on ridge lines about 3 a.m.., triggering the new fire start off of Pythian Road, said Charles Kuniyoshi, a Cal Fire spokesman out of the Chula Vista fire department in Southern California.

By 10 a.m., the new flare up had burned 300 acres.

“The fire is still active. The whole area is under mandatory evacuation,” Kuniyoshi said.

That included detainees at a juvenile detention facility cleared out to safer ground.

Nearly 3,000 firefighters were battling fires in what is now known as the Central LNU Complex.

The blaze challenging firefighters is part of the Nuns Fire, which pushed into the Oakmont community and northeast, forcing the evacuations of 250 people from town of Sonoma and another 3,000 people from Santa Rosa by 4 a.m.

“What's making it difficult is the weather we’re having - 40 mph winds on the ridgetops, humidity’s at 10 percent, wind coming from the north. Today, the winds are changing, pulling the fire around.”

UC Davis takes in eight severely burned cats, vows to love them like their own

10:45 a.m.

Eight more victims of the wildfires - all feline - ended up at the UC Davis veterinary hospital Friday night.

“Thankfully, all have identified owners, but all have severe burns,” the hospital said on its Facebook page.

One cat arrived with a note attached to a brown paper bag from his owner, a woman named Brandi, thanking them “for your love and care for my angel.”

“This grey sweater is mine, will you please leave it with him?” she wrote.

“I am so thankful for all you are doing,” she added. “You are my miracle.”

UC Davis workers responded on Facebook: “Rest assured, Brandi, he’s in good hands. We’ll love him as if he were our own.”

They noted that “the owners of these cats have lost everything. Please consider donating to UC Davis Veterinary Catastrophic Need Fund to help treat animals affected by wildfires.”

FEMA expands direct assistance to more counties hit by fire

10:20 a.m.

FEMA has approved additional hard-hit counties in California for assistance to individuals affected by the fires, authorities said Saturday. Initial approval was given to residents of Sonoma and Napa counties, but on Satuday officials said that had been extended to include Butte, Lake, Mendocino and Yuba counties.

The assistance is aimed at helping individuals who are fire victims with grants for temporary housing in hotels, home repairs, loans that cover uninsured property loss and other losses.

FEMA recommends registering online at or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).

Gov. Brown and Sens. Feinstein and Harris to visit Santa Rosa Saturday

10:10 a.m.

Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris are scheduled Saturday to visit one of the areas hardest-hit by Northern CAlifornia’s wildfires.

The three are expected to meet privately with emergency and fire officials in Santa Rosa, then speak to reporters before attending a community meeting there. Officials say nearly 3,000 homes have been incinerated in Santa Rosa, and portions of the city remain in peril.

Evacuations lifted in Lake County while 10,000 firefighters battle major blazes elsewhere

10 a.m.

More than 10,000 firefighters are now battling 16 large wildfires that have burned more than 330 square miles of California neighborhoods, forests and businesses since Sunday, with 100,000 people evacuated from the fires so far.

Predawn winds in Santa Rosa helped the Nuns Fire jump firelines and push into two directions, forcing thousands of people to evacuate their homes near Oakmont and northeast of the city of Sonoma, Cal Fire said.

A new fire also erupted near Spring Valley in Lake County at about 5 a.m. Saturday. The fire was reported off Highway 20 and Long Valley Road, five miles east of Clearlake Oaks, Cal Fire said. That blaze, the Long Fire, had burned 100 acres at first report and spawned evacuation or shelter-in-place orders from Lake County sheriff’s officials, but those orders were downgraded by mid-morning Saturday.

“The Spring Valley community is no longer in immediate danger,” the sheriff’s office said. “The mandatory evacuation and shelter in place orders have been lifted.

“Residents of Spring Valley as well as residents located to the west of New Long Valley Road to Highway 53 are currently under an evacuation advisory. An evacuation advisory is not a mandatory evacuation. Residents are advised to gather their medications, pets and important papers.

“Residents should be prepared to leave the area with little notice. If the situation worsens the Sheriff’s Office will issue a mandatory evacuation notice.”

Sheriff’s officials added that they expected New Long Valley Road to be reduced to one-way controlled traffic for most of Saturday.

Churches open doors as shelters for wildfire victims, rest spots for firefighters

9:30 a.m.

Numerous churches are housing victims of the Northern California wildfires, including several United Methodist churches directly in the fire zones.

“I hold up the example of Rev. Blake Busick, Senior Pastor at First UMC in Santa Rosa, who even while he and his family were evacuated and have possibly lost their home, led God's people to open the doors of their church to provide refuge for those escaping the deadly fires,” United Methodist Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño wrote in an email to members. “Our churches in Santa Rosa, Napa, Sonoma, Petaluma and Novato are serving as shelters.

“Our San Rafael and Terra Linda churches are assisting with the Novato shelter and as of yesterday were standing by, ready to serve as shelters as well if needed. Clear Lake UMC, who knows what it is like to be in the pathway of wildfires, has been serving as a rest area for firefighters. The need has been so great that even our Waller Center in San Francisco has become a shelter. Los Altos UMC has sent forth health kits for those in shelters. I have also learned that there was a wildfire in the Sutter Creek area and that Lodestar Camp served as a staging site for firefighters.”

Church leaders also are responding to a request for help in housing 50 Alzheimer’s and dementia patients who may be displaced if the fires grow, she said.

“Ask the people of Sacramento to pray for us”

9:00 a.m.

Fire victims at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Auditorium recounted the terror of the last week as they waited to see what will happen next.

Laura Sousa is 65, and has spent nearly all those years in Sonoma County, the last year living in a rented house on property east of Gates Road just outside Calistoga.

She spent the last week in her Subaru station wagon.

“I sleep in my car right now,” Sousa said Friday afternoon in the parking lot. She reclined behind the wheel, wearing donated clothes from the evacuation center inside - a gray sweatshirt and blue jeans - her wagon filled to the windows with more clothes, bedding, snacks, a home seeker’s information form.

The fire “happened in the middle of the night - it caught a lot of people off guard,” she said, including Sousa.

Her place lost power about 11:30 p.m. Sunday. “Guess it’s time to go to bed,” she said. She woke up to car horns and dense smoke and ended up here at the auditorium.

“It's a serious situation,” Sousa said. “This could happen to any community. Have a change of clothes, medications, whatever is really important to you, and have it in a place that’s accessible.”

She doesn't know if her place will still be standing when she does go back.

“I’ve only been there a year. Hopefully, I’m still going to be there. I don’t have insurance, but I really believe the property’s safe,” Sousa said before adding a final request: “Ask the people of Sacramento to pray for us.”

Food and other donations pour in for fire victims

8:45 a.m.

Businesses and public agencies are collecting donations throughout Northern California for wildfire victims, and so much has poured into Sonoma County’s Redwood Empire Food Bank that the center posted a note on Facebook alerting people in need that plenty is available.

“Due to the overwhelming amount of donations from neighbors near and far, we’ve much free food available to our agency partners while supplies last,” the food bank said in a post on the Sonoma County Facebook page. “Free milk, ready perishable meals, snacks, bottled water, frozen soups, etc.

“As we continue to receive donations, please allow for extra time and patience when you come to shop, as parking is tight and there is much activity.”

Erratic winds forcing firefighters into action to save homes in Sonoma County

8:10 a.m.

The winds already are beginning to pose problems for firefighters throughout Northern California on Saturday. Evacuations were ordered early Saturday in Santa Rosa and Lake County. Firefighters brought in from Nevada to help with the 46,000-acre Nuns Fire in Sonoma County are fighting to protect homes from wind-whipped flames in the Sonoma Valley area.

“Heavy predawn fire activity and swirling winds,” the Reno Fire Department reported on Twitter. “Firefighters pushing fire away from homes.”

Lake County orders new evacuations

5:30 a.m.

The Lake County Sheriff’s Department issued a mandatory evacuation for residents in the Spring Valley and New Long Valley areas north of Highway 20.

New evacuations ordered

5:00 a.m.

Santa Rosa police ordered new mandatory evacuations at 5 a.m. Saturday as winds began to pick up and threaten more fire danger

The order affected “all areas and roads north and south off of Highway 12 between Adobe Canyon Road and Calistoga Road. Skyhawk, Mountain Hawk, Oakmont & most of Rincon Valley.”

“Leave now,“ police ordered.

Death toll increases to 35

The death toll from California’s wildfires is at least 35 as of Saturday morning, with the additional discovery of a 19th victim in Sonoma County and two more in Napa County, officials say.

Four total deaths have been counted in Napa, eight in Mendocino County and four in Yuba County. More than 200 people remain missing, and although officials expect to find most of those safe in coming days, there is the possibility of the death toll increasing from what is now California’s deadliest week of fires.

Evacuations overnight in Sonoma County

Sheriff’s officials worried about shifting winds overnight continued to order evacuations in some areas, including Sonoma Valley, where residents were told early Saturday to leave these neighborhoods:

7th St East from E Napa St to Denmark St.

North side of Denmark St from 7th St E to Napa Rd.

8th St E north of Denmark St.

E MacArthur St east of 7th St E

Quail Run Way, Hamblin Rd

Firefighters bracing for wind gusts

The National Weather Service in Sacramento is predicting winds gusts of about 20 mph Saturday during the day in hard-hit areas, including the fires that struck Santa Rosa and Redwood Valley. Winds are expected to continue through Sunday.

Progress against blazes continues

More than 9,000 firefighters battling the blazes continued to make progress against the major fires, with containment steadily increasing.

The Mendocino/Lake complex, which included the Redwood Valley Fire that killed eight, has burned 36,500 acres and is now at 22 percent containment.

The Wind complex that included the Cascade Fire in Yuba County, where at least four people have died, has burned 17,155 acres and is now 75 percent contained.

The Tubbs Fire in Sonoma County, which destroyed nearly 3,000 homes in Santa Rosa, is at 35,270 acres and is now 44 per

cent contained.

The Atlas Fire that began in Napa County and spread toward the Green Valley area of Solano County, is at 48,228 acres and is 45 percent contained.

Looters, price gouging, now phone scammers

Authorities have been reporting scattered incidents of looting attempts and arrests, and now say phone scammers are preying on fire victims.

In Mendocino County, the sheriff’s office reported residents “have been receiving phone calls from people claiming to be able to provide financial aid to fire victims.”

“During these calls the caller has asked for personal information such as the resident's social security number,” the sheriff’s office said. “The public should be aware that these types of calls are from people trying to collect personal information for purposes of identity theft.

“Residents are urged not to provide their personal information to anyone under these circumstances.”

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