Survivor cat rescued by PG&E worker among wine country fire devastation
More than 5,700 homes and other structures now believed destroyed by wildfire
Cal Fire now says at least 5,700 structures have been destroyed in this week’s fires, which have killed at least 32 people. Nearly 3,000 of those structures are homes in Santa Rosa.
Death toll climbs
An 18th victim of the wildfires in Sonoma County has been discovered dead, bringing the statewide fatality count from fires since Sunday to 32, the deadliest week from wildfires in state history.
Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano said Friday that hundreds of people remain missing, and that 45 search and rescue workers and 30 detectives are scouring the fire zones looking for victims.
So far, the county has received reports of 1,308 people missing. Officials have found 1,052 of them safe, leaving 256 still unaccounted for.
Giordano expects many of those people still will be found safe, but has said he expects the death toll to increase as searchers gain access to more burned neighborhoods.
Officials also warned that they are stepping up efforts against looting and price gouging in the county in the wake of the fires.
Sonoma deputies arrested a suspected looter Thursday, marking the sixth such arrest since the fires began, and District Attorney Jill Ravitch said such cases will be prosecuted.
“No looting is going to be tolerated in this county,” Ravitch said. “I’ve been out in some of these terrible areas where people are putting signs on their doors saying, ‘Please don’t loot.’
“That’s not going to happen in Sonoma County.”
Ravitch added that she also is receiving reports of price-gouging, defined as firms increasing prices more than 10 percent following an emergency.
“That will not be tolerated either,” she said.
More federal aid approved for individual victims of the wildfires in Sonoma and Napa counties
The White House has approved Gov. Jerry Brown’s request for assistance to individuals and families affected by the wildfires in Sonoma and Napa counties, paving the way for grants and reimbursements to people for expenses such as hotel bills, medical needs, damage to homes and vehicles and other losses.
FEMA officials already are visiting some fire victims in shelters to get them registered for the aid, and anyone from those counties seeking assistance can register online at www.disasterassistance.gov or call 1-800-621-3362.
Wine country collection drive raises more than $1 million
A collaboration between McGuire, Redwood Credit Union and The Press-Democrat, the fund will benefit survivors in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Lake counties. Donations can be made to individual county recovery efforts or a general fund. The organizers are hosting a “Drive Up & Donate” event from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday at the Santa Rosa State Building, 50 D St.
PG&E has donated $200,000, per Redwood Credit Union’s website, while Sonoma Media Investments and Hall & Walt winery have donated $100,000 apiece.
Three victims in the Redwood Valley fire identified
Mendocino County sheriff’s officials confirmed the names Friday of three of the eight people killed this week in the Redwood Valley fire that swept through the area early Monday: a 14-year-old boy and an elderly couple.
Kai Logan Shepherd, 14, was found dead near his family home in the 11300 block of West Road in Redwood Valley. His parents and 17-year-old sister were fleeing at about 1 a.m. when the fire overtook them. The others were severely burned, and the sister had her legs amputated, family members have told The Bee.
Roy Howard Bowman, 87, and his wife, Irma Elsie Bowman, 88, were found in the burned remains of their home in the 4000 block of Fisher Lake Drive in Redwood Valley.
Counties offer residents online searches to see if their homes were damaged
Yuba County and Santa Rosa residents displaced by this week’s wildfires can search online for information about whether their property has been damaged or destroyed.
Yuba County has posted a list of addresses with property damage on the county Office of Emergency Services Facebook page. The list contains addresses of more than 110 homes as of Friday morning. Cal Fire estimates at least 187 homes have been destroyed by fires in the county. See an interactive map of homes lost here.
In Santa Rosa, where nearly 3,000 homes are believed to have been destroyed by the Tubbs Fire, authorities are offering the ability to search an aerial view of neighborhoods to get a rough idea of damage from the fires. The link to that service was responding at times Friday morning with the warning “too many requests.”
Suspected looter arrested in Sonoma County is found with gear stolen from firefighter, authorities say
Sonoma County sheriff’s officials say they have arrested yet another suspected looter, this time a man who allegedly stole life-saving equipment from a firefighter sent in to help.
The arrest stemmed from calls to deputies reporting a theft from a car and a fight at a park, sheriff’s officials said in a Facebook post.
“Deputies got to the park and detained Morgan Plumere of Sonoma,” the department said. “After some investigation we learned that Plumere had been seen taking a pair of sunglasses out of a car in an evacuation area. One neighbor called 911 while another neighbor followed Plumere to the park and confronted him.”
Deputies discovered Plumere was on probation and searched him finding the glasses as well as items that a vineyard management company had previously reported stolen, the department said.
“Plumere was also in possession of an emergency fire shelter that appeared to have been taken from an out-of-county fire department that had responded to assist with the fire,” the Facebook post said. Such shelters are used by firefighters as a last-ditch lifesaving effort in the event a fire sweeps over them and they cannot escape.
Plumere, 30, was arrested on suspicion of looting, possession of stolen property, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of prescription medications without a prescription and violation of probation, the department said.
Authorities say they had arrested five other suspected looters in recent days and have 300 officers patrolling evacuated neighborhoods.
346.5 miles of fire in state
Seventeen active California wildfires have burned a combined 221,754 acres, or 346.5 miles, according to Cal Fire.
A previous Cal Fire statement had described 22 wildfires raging throughout the state. But the Nuns, Adobe and Norbbom fires have merged into one and the Redwood and Potter fires have done the same, while three small blazes have been fully contained.
The statewide death count remains at 31 as of Friday morning, including 15 from Sonoma County.
Smoke again spreads into Sacramento region
Smoke from Northern California fire has again spread through the Bay Area and into the Sacramento region, especially Elk Grove, where on Friday morning there is an “unhealthy” amount of particulate matter, according to the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District.
The air in Rio Vista was also unhealthy before being downgraded to “unhealthy for sensitive groups” at 7 a.m. The air around Sacramento was mostly clear Thursday afternoon after being filled with smoke on Wednesday.
A Red Flag Warning stretching from north of Redding to south of San Jose will launch at 11 p.m. Friday and be lifted at 8 a.m. Sunday, according to the National Weather Service. The warning against fire-starting actions mostly highlights the Sacramento Valley as well as the East Bay Hills and Napa and Sonoma counties.
Winds are expected to hover between 15 mph and 30 mph with occasional gusts up to 45 mph before lightening Sunday and Monday, said Brooke Bingaman, weather service meteorologist. Exposed ridges pose the most serious threats.
“The grasses and shrubs are all like tinder out there,” Bingaman said. “And on top of that, the bigger trees have suffered from drought over the last couple years, so we’re in a situation where any spark is going to lead to a rapid fire spreading and even moderate winds are going to help that spread.”
Fire containment has improved in several areas, leading Napa County to lift mandatory evacuations around Silverado Country Club, Monticello Park and The Avenues. The Atlas Peak Fire, the largest in the state at 48,228 acres, went from 7 percent contained Thursday night to 27 percent contained as of 7:30 a.m. Friday. Containment of the 12,379-acre Partrick Fire, also in Napa County, jumped from 2 percent to 18 percent overnight.
The Cascade Fire in Yuba County’s Loma Rica area reached 55 percent containment Friday morning, up 10 percent from Thursday. Four people are known dead as a result of the 10,120-acre fire.
In Butte County, the 6,139-acre La Porte Fire is 45 percent contained after being at 25 percent on Thursday.
Benjy Egel: 916-321-1052; @BenjyEgel