Glimpses of blue skies gave hope on Sunday to firefighters battling the deadliest wildfires in California history, which have killed at least 40 people and reduced whole neighborhoods in the state’s wine country to ash.
Two of the three deadliest blazes were more than half contained by Sunday, making it safe enough for law enforcement to begin inspecting some evacuated areas in hard-hit Sonoma County, according to the county sheriff’s office.
Only after those inspections were complete would they begin to decide when it would be safe for residents whose homes were not among the 5,700 structures destroyed by more than a dozen separate wildfires, which ignited a week ago and have since consumed an area larger than New York City.
“The skies are blue,” Don Martini, a 69-year-old retired carpenter, said after waking up at the Sonoma Raceway campgrounds, where he had spent the previous four days with only smoke and smog overhead. “I haven’t seen a blue sky since this whole thing started.”
Some at the raceway evacuation center hoped to return to their homes on Sunday.
But the fast-moving fires north of San Francisco remained a danger, with thousands more people ordered to leave their homes on Saturday as the death toll crept upward. Hundreds of people remain unaccounted for, and entire neighborhoods have been turned to ashes.
Some 11,000 firefighters supported by air tankers and helicopters battled fires that have consumed more than 217,000 acres (88,000 hectares). (Reuters)
Here are aerial views of the devastation caused by the Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa, Calif.