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Sonoma County death toll from fires climbs to 11

Susan Komar becomes emotional as she stands in the charred remains of her home in the Coffey Park area of Santa Rosa, on Tuesday, October 10, 2017. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

RANDI ROSSMANN AND JULIE JOHNSON,

Here are the latest updates from the fires burning in the region:

7:07 p.m.

The number people who died in the massive fire burning in Santa Rosa rose to 11 Tuesday, Sonoma County sheriff’s officials said.

The fatalities were spread along the fire’s destructive path.

One person died on rural Mountain Home Ranch Drive in the hills off Petrified Forest Road leading into Calistoga, close to where the fire started just north of town.

Three people died in rural hillside community along Mark West Springs Road, on Crystal Court and on Sundown Trail off Riebli Road.

In Larkfield, authorities confirmed people died on Angela Drive, Mark West Springs Road and Wikiup Bridge Way.

Two people were found dead in Santa Rosa’s tree-and-sidewalk Coffey Park neighborhood, one on Coffey Lane and another person on Hemlock Street.

Their identities were not released.

6:56 p.m.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said there are no planned evacuations for Windsor.

The office published a statement saying a previous notice that the area near Esposti Park and Shiloh Road was under evacuation was “a miscommunication.”

The fire above Shiloh Ranch Regional Park continues burning, but fire personnel are remaining at the site.

6:36 p.m.

Fire engulfed a home on Trail Ridge Place abutting Trione-Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa’s Oakmont community as dusk fell Tuesday, despite a long effort by firefighters trying to keep the blaze from spreading into the community of about 4,500 residents on Santa Rosa’s eastern outskirts.

The fire was throwing embers into adjacent homes and setting embers into eucalyptus trees on nearby Crestridge Place. Firefighters were battling to keep the fire from taking hold.

5:25 p.m.

Residents in the Annadel Heights area bordered north by Parktrail Drive and west by Summerfield Road were ordered to evacuate by the Santa Rosa Police Department.

5:20 p.m.

With the heavy smoke lifting and breezes increasing Tuesday evening, fire flare-ups and spread led to additional evacuations of thousands of area residences, according to Santa Rosa Fire Chief Tony Gossner.

Evacuations launched late Tuesday afternoon by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office included people near Bennett Valley Golf Course, Annadel Heights and north of Geyserville along Ida Clayton Road.

“We’re not taking any chances. We don’t know what the wind is going to do. We’re concerned for sure,” said Gossner, who is helping manage the mammoth Tubbs fire burning in several areas of Santa Rosa.

Numerous residents in a variety of areas began calling for help Tuesday afternoon, fearing fire in their general area and law enforcement officers sent to those areas to check on the situation helped result in the sheriff’s evacuation calls.

“After what happened to Santa Rosa the other day we’re not going to take any chances,” Gossner said, referring to how the Tubbs fire swept into northern Santa Rosa and then spread into numerous neighborhoods, leveling blocks of homes and businesses from Coffey Park to Larkfield to Skyfarm.

Massive last‑minute evacuations forced firefighters to focus on knocking on doors and aiding evacuations instead of fighting flames. Gossner said if people evacuate ahead of any possible trouble Wednesday with the predicted return of erratic winds and heat, firefighters will have an easier time.

In Oakmont, where flames from nearby Trione-Annadel State Park continued to threaten homes in the upper residential reaches, firefighters continued to hold the line and Gossner knew of no homes lost as of late Tuesday afternoon.

In the hills above Windsor, a fire that has burned in the Shiloh Park area also kicked up, and evacuations were ordered in the area of Montebello Road and the south side of Shiloh Ranch Regional Park.

5:15 p.m.

Immediate evacuation orders were in effect for the Annadel Heights neighborhood bordering Trione-Annadel State Park. Santa Rosa police issued the order for the area bordered by Parktrail Drive to the north and Summerfield Road to the west.

4:45 p.m.

Evacuation orders were issued for residents along Ida Clayton Road in Knights Valley, an area threatened by the 1,200-acre Pocket fire burning in northern Sonoma County. Sonoma County sheriff’s officials Tuesday afternoon said the fire was spreading northward.

The blaze was burning in mostly rugged, open territory of grass and brush with scattered homes, and the evacuation order indicated the fire may be advancing toward areas of rugged hills and steep canyons.

4:30 p.m.

Fire activity was picking up near parklands in eastern and northern Santa Rosa, leading to additional evacuations in the following areas:

East of the Bennett Valley Golf Course, west of Trione-Annadel State Park

The 5500-block of Faught Rd on the south side of Shiloh Ranch Regional Park

Montebello Road on the south side of Shiloh Ranch Regional Park

Pacific Heights area behind Molsberry Market in the Larkfield Center

3:40 p.m.

Fire activity in an area between Trione-Annadel State Park and Sonoma Mountain was increasing Tuesday with law enforcement going go door-to-door, making sure residents were gone or leaving.

The evacuation orders involve the following ares:

Enterprise Road

Bennett Ridge Road

Sonoma Mountain Road

2:10 p.m.

Bennett Ridge neighborhood above Bennett Valley suffered severe fire losses, with a tally of more than 75 homes burned on four roads in the small east Santa Rosa community.

Residents created an address‑by‑address list Tuesday to help anxious neighbors know what was left. The burned homes seemed double the number of surviving residences and final numbers could be worse as there are more homes in the area and several couldn’t be seen from the road, said Matt Jennings, a Rollo Road resident who helped compile the list.

Prior to the news from neighbors, there has been little information about the fire‑ravaged area from fire officials and evacuated neighbors have been relying on themselves and social media to keep in touch. A Cal Fire official got to the area Tuesday afternoon and confirmed there were many homes lost in the neighborhood.

The list showed that more than 20 homes on Rollo Road, 20 on Bardy Road, 25 on Bennett Ridge and nine on Old Bennett Ridge were lost with several others appearing to be lost.

“Lost. Lost. Lost. Lost. All these houses are just burned to the ground,” Jennings said.

2:10 p.m.

Santa Rosa police issued an immediate evacuation warning for anyone still in Oakmont, say the Nunns fire was fast approaching the community.

“NunsFire is rapidly approaching Oakmont,” said the alert. “Oakmont is still under mandatory evacuation — all residents must leave now.”

Oakmont’s White Oak Drive, at the top of the community, was threatened by the fire late Monday night into Tuesday morning but firefighters had held it at bay. Tuesday afternoon the threat remained active, according to officials.

Check back for details.

12:30 p.m.

Cal Fire director Ken Pimlott said firefighters had not yet secured any containment lines around the fires burning in Sonoma and Napa counties, but they expected to make significant progress Tuesday under more favorable weather conditions — primarily a break in the wind.

The strong winds that fueled the devastating firestorms that ran through entire communities in Santa Rosa had lessened were expected to return Wednesday.

“We are far from out of the woods,” Pimlott said.

Tuesday, firefighters were focusing on strengthening protection lines, primarily on the fires’ southern flanks. Some of those efforts include keeping the Nuns fire off Sugarloaf Mountain and working along Calistoga Road to protect neighborhoods from the fire and prevent the fire from entering already burned areas.

Additional firefighting forces were en route from Nevada and other states, as state emergency officials continued to divert resources from other fires to northern California.

Addressing concerns about a lack of air support for firefighters on the ground, Pimlott said they had mustered a strong showing by the end of the day Monday, pumping a total of 266,000 gallons of fire retardant from a Sacramento air base alone for aircraft working on the fires. Pimlott said they flew 45 missions Monday, but didn’t specify locations or fires. They had 4,000 personnel deployed.

“We have access to almost every aviation asset in the country right now,” Pimlott said.

More assistance was expected. Vice President Mike Pence visited Sacramento Tuesday and said President Donald Trump had approved a “major disaster declaration” for the wildfires, a status that allows FEMA to provide further resources.

The latest numbers available about fires in Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties:

Atlas fire: 25,000 acres, zero percent containment

Nuns fire: 5,000 acres, zero percent containment

Tubbs fire: 27,000 acres, zero percent containment

Redwood complex: 21,000 acres, zero percent containment

12:05 p.m.

The number of people who have died in North Coast wildfires has risen to 15, including 9 fatalities from the Tubbs fire burning in Santa Rosa and greater Sonoma County.

“That number continues to be fluid, and we still have a number of missing persons,” said Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

Speaking at a press conference at the Mather Air Force Base in Sacramento, Ghilarducci said local law enforcement were working to notify the families of those lost.

10 a.m.

Assistant Sonoma County Fire Marshal Andy Parsons told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday 20 strike teams were battling the Tubbs fire. There is still zero containment.

Sheriff Rob Giordano told supervisors up to 20 deputies had lost homes. The department was still rescuing residents and helping with evacuations. He said an estimated 125 people were missing.

The fires, he said, have “really blown up...this is extremely active. This is by no means over for us in any way.”

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9 a.m.

Fire Monday night into early Tuesday flared-up in some Santa Rosa areas already burned and caused new threats – including in Oakmont, where a force of firefighters and engines were holding back flames from reaching homes.

At least eight fires continue burning in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Lake counties totaling more than 80,000 acres. Only two in Lake County have any amount of containment.

The Tubbs fire is the most devastating of all, burning in an urban area as it swept over the hill from Calistoga into northern Santa Rosa and then spread in multiple directions, obliterating hillsides and flatland neighborhoods from Coffey Park in the west to Skyfarm in the east.

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Early Tuesday fire officials released new numbers including that 571 structures were destroyed in the Santa Rosa fire: 550 homes and 21 commercial buildings.

New trouble flared during the night in Oakmont, the retirement community east of Santa Rosa, said Paul Lowenthal, Santa Rosa’s assistant fire marshal.

About 1 a.m. Tuesday a report of fire nearing White Oak Drive along the upper edge of the community brought numerous firefighters, who made a stand along the road to prevent its spread into Trione-Annadel State Park.

Initial reports indicated it was a new fire, but officials later realized it was a finger of the 5,000-acre Nunns fire, which stretched from greater Glen Ellen to Annadel and Bennett Valley. This part of the fire had shifted during the night. Fire officials predict it could get larger.

Bennett Valley fire Battalion Chief Darren DeCarli said Tuesday several homes apparently have burned along Bennett Ridge but further details were scare. He also was attempting to learn about any losses on Pressley Road or in Hidden Acres.

Like many local firefighters, Bennett Valley fire crews have been battling fires since Sunday night.

He said with more strike teams arriving he expected the crews to be relieved sometime today.

Overnight, two strike teams of firefighters continued keeping flames from homes along White Oak Drive at the top of the retirement community. Cal Fire spokesman Jonathan Cox said that without wind, the fire wasn’t making a strong push into the area and he hadn’t seen any damaged homes.

“Our concern is just when the heat comes up and fire activity increases,” said Cox.

Cox also expected Cal Fire to update fire information Tuesday, including size. Cal Fire officials from throughout the state moved into the county later Monday and began helping run the large fires, working with local fire officials. The added resources meant a better assessment of the reality of the blazes.

The 10 or so engines and roughly 30 firefighters were expected to stay in Oakmont, which had been completely evacuated earlier Tuesday, he said.

Exhausted local firefighters, many whom had no relief teams coming in Tuesday morning to take their spot, were relieved they were at least getting a break from the weather.

Erratic winds, fierce gusts and single‑digit humidity had pushed the fiery misery Sunday night into Monday, but Monday night that had tempered to light or no wind. Weather forecasts still called for severe weather warnings and the wind was expected to pick up later Tuesday.

“We did not see the fire activity like we did the first night but we did continue to run multiple incidents throughout the city, reports of structure fires, vegetation fires, which we can expect with flare-ups and burning of unburned fuels within the perimeter,” Lowenthal said.

Flames cropped up in a variety of places, sending firefighting teams in all directions, including back to the neighborhoods of Coffey Park and Fountaingrove. Fire still was burning at the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country hotel on the hilly parkway before dawn Tuesday.

Fires continued to break out in Fountaingrove Tuesday morning. One fire was burning a home on Lakepointe Circle. Firefighters also were returning to Thomas Lake Harris Drive.

That was expected with the extreme heat remaining in fire areas and pockets of unburned homes, buildings and landscaping, Cox said.

The new problems primarily were within the huge fire’s perimeter, so acreage before daylight still was estimated at 27,000.

Fire officials expected to release new numbers on the majority of the area fires early Tuesday morning at a press conference.

Other areas of flare-ups included businesses in the Hopper Avenue area in northwest Santa Rosa and near Badger Road in Rincon Valley, Lowenthal said.

“We still have a lot of pretty significant volumes of fuel continuing to burn up around the hotels on the hill. One hotel still is heavily, actively burning. But it wasn’t the progression we saw on the first night.”

Evacuation orders from Monday remained in place, including in areas not hit by the fire but close to the destruction.

“We understand there is a desire for people to get back into their homes but there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to make sure that areas are safe to return to,” Lowenthal said.

Road closures also remained in place, and early Tuesday Santa Rosa police warned drivers to avoid Highway 12 east at Melita Road which was closed for the firefighting effort.

Efforts on the Tubbs fire Tuesday included 647 people, with 84 engines, seven helicopters, 13 dozers and 17 water trucks.

Several offices of the Sonoma County Human Services were closed Tuesday from the effects of the fire. Additionally, AT&T phones lines were down.

Smoke continued to hang over greater Santa Rosa Tuesday morning, looking like a Southern California smog blanket. But that was nothing compared to Monday morning, when the choking smoke was so thick and black in areas it looked as if a mother-of-all winter thunderstorms was bearing down on the region.

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You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 707‑521-5412 or randi.rossmann@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter@rossmannreport. You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 707-521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jjpressdem.