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Officials to open 3 fire-ravaged Santa Rosa communities

Firefighters Clyde Rust, left, and Julien Lecorps make a progressive hose lay in rugged terrain to extinguish hot spots from the Nuns fire near homes around Hood Mountain Regional Park in Santa Rosa, California on Monday, October 16, 2017. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

NICK RAHAIM,

Here is a quick take on the latest updates of wildfires in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and other counties.

7:20 p.m.

Three communities, Orchard Park, Journey’s End and Coffey Park will have controlled entry from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20.

Saturday, Oct. 21, the mobile home parks will be released back to the property owners but Coffey Park will remain a controlled entry area.

Sunday, Oct. 22, Coffey Park will be open for public access. This controlled entry is designed to allow only residents into their neighborhood, so they have protected time to assess and grieve.

Locations for entry pass distribution will be for:

Orchard Park — at the entry of Orchard Mobile Home Park;

Journey’s End — at the entry of Journey’s End Mobile Home Park; and

Coffey Park — in the Kohl’s parking lot accessed from Airway Drive.

Law enforcement will verify entry passes and addresses of residents.

To obtain an entry pass, residents must provide a form of ID such as a driver’s license, state ID card, passport, utility bill and valid photo ID, or consular ID.

If residents do not have an ID, the Local Assistance Center at 427 Mendocino Ave. can help.

Passes for up to two vehicles per property will be issued.

6:35 p.m.

The mandatory evacuation order for the unincorporated area of Sonoma County north of Oakmont, including the areas east of Melita Road to Hoff Road in Kenwood, along with the areas north of Highway 12 have been lifted. This includes stretches of Los Alamos, Melita and Pythian roads along with Shady Acres Lane.

6:30 p.m.

The first measurable rainfall this season comes to Santa Rosa. A very light very light rain began falling at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds at 5 p.m. By 6:30 p.m., the National Weather Service was reporting .03 inches of rain in Santa Rosa.

4:56 p.m.

The California Department of Public Health on Thursday issued a statewide warning about the health risks of cleaning up after wildfire, urging residents who eventually return to fire-damaged or burned-over neighborhoods to take specific precautions to avoid toxic materials like metals, chemicals and asbestos likely present in the ash of destroyed homes.

People can reduce exposure to toxins by wearing tight-fitting N95 or P100 respirators masks, as well as sturdy gloves, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when cleaning up ash.

Persons who get ash on their skin should wash it off immediately. Wet ash can cause chemical burns, officials said.

All attempts should be made to avoid getting ash into the air, as well, by using water and a wet cloth or mop to clean dirty surfaces. Do not use brooms or otherwise sweep up dry ash, the health agency said.

Also to be avoided are shop vacs or non-HEPA (high-efficiency) vacuums because they do not filter out small particles and end up expelling them back into the air in their exhaust, where people may inhale them.

Children should not be permitted to play in areas where ash or ash-covered materials are being disturbed. Pets and toys should be cleaned of ash before children are exposed to them, health officials said.

2:30 p.m.

Dry Creek Road has been opened to Mt. Veeder Road. However, Dry Creek Road from Mt. Veeder to the Napa County line remains closed. Mt. Veeder Road also remains closed.

1:30 p.m.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development announced HUD will speed federal disaster assistance to the State of California and provide support to homeowners and low-income renters forced from their homes due to wildfires.

President Trump issued a major disaster declaration for Butte, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Sonoma and Yuba counties.

Such a declaration provides immediate foreclosure relief, makes mortgage insurance available and allows for rehabilitation of existing single-family homes.

12:30 p.m.

Mendocino County Sheriff’s officials have identified five of the eight people who died in the fire that burned through Redwood and Coyote valleys east of Willits, destroying more than 300 homes and forcing thousands of residents to flee.

The fast-moving blaze caught most of its victims in their homes. Three people appear to have died as they were fleeing the blaze, investigators said. They included 14-year-old Kai Logan Shepherd, who was running from the fire with family members. He was among the first three victims identified in the fire last week.

The newly identified victims are:

Steve Bruce Stelter, 56, of Redwood Valley, who was found near a vehicle outside his home on West Road. He appeared to have been overrun by flames as he prepared to flee in the vehicle. His home was destroyed by the fire.

Janet Kay Constanzo, 71, of Redwood Valley, who was found in the burned remains of West Road home she shared with Stelter, her boyfriend, authorities said.

Jane Gardiner, 83, of Redwood Valley, whose remains was found in her destroyed Tomki Road home along with those of her caregiver, Elizabeth Charlene Foster, 64, also of Redwood Valley. Gardiner and Foster had called Gardiner’s stepson about 1:30 a.m. on Oct. 9, in the initial hours of the firestorm. They told him over the phone that flames surrounded the home and that they were awaiting evacuation by the fire department, sheriff’s officials said.

Margaret Stephenson, 86, of Redwood Valley, was found in her destroyed Tomki home. She appeared to be in the process of fleeing through the garage when she was overtaken by the fire, authorities said.

Last week, Mendocino County sheriff’s officials identified a Redwood Valley couple killed in the blaze, Roy Howard Bowman, 87, and his wife, Irma Elsie Bowman, 88. They died at their Fisher Lake Drive, home, which was destroyed in the fire.

The Redwood fire, which began about 10:36 p.m. Oct. 8, has burned more than 36,500 homes east of Willits. It was 85 percent contained on Thursday. Its cause remains under investigation.

12:15 p.m.

Road closures for Calistoga Road/Petrified Forest Road, including roads east of Calistoga Road from Santa Rosa to Sharp Road.

9:30 a.m.

Rain expected Thursday afternoon has firefighters optimistic for the approaching end to the fires but also concerned about ash runoff and stuck fire engines.

“The big news of the day is we’re expecting precipitation 2 to 4 p.m. then into the evening,” said Santa Rosa Assistant Fire Marshal Paul Lowenthal. “Any water helps, but too much can cause problems.”

Valley and lowland areas in Sonoma County can expect 0.1 inch of rain, said National Weather Service Meteorologist Ryan Walburn.

But some of the higher elevations ravaged by the Pocket and the Tubbs fires could see a half-inch of rain, possibly topping out at 1 inch around Mount St. Helena, Walburn said.

Ash runoff and possible landslides in fire-scarred areas are concerns with the coming rain, Lowenthal said. Fire crews are also preparing and repositioning throughout the day so heavy equipment and trucks don’t get stuck in the mud, he said.

7:45 a.m.

Lake, Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma county wildfires continue to move toward full containment as overnight weather cooperated with firefighters.

“The Pocket fire still needs a little more work to button it up but the Tubbs and Nuns held steady overnight,” said Santa Rosa Assistant Fire Marshal Paul Lowenthal.

Increased overnight humidity in higher elevations help hold the fires in place, Lowenthal said.

In Sonoma County, the Nuns fire moved up slightly to 82 percent containment after burning 54,423 acres since Oct. 8, Cal Fire reported Thursday morning.

The Pocket fire stands at 73 percent containment and has torched 16,552 acres between Cloverdale and Geyserville, Cal Fire said.

The deadly Tubbs fire reached 92 percent and has blackened 36,432 acres from neighborhoods in north Santa Rosa to the slopes of Mount St. Helena, Cal Fire said.

In Napa County, the Atlas fire inched closer to the end overnight moving to 85 percent containment Thursday morning, Cal Fire reports.

The blaze has scorched 51,624 acres in eastern Napa County, as well as parts of Solano County, and destroyed 431 structures, Cal Fire said. All evacuation orders have been lifted in those counties.

The Redwood Valley fire in Mendocino County is 85 percent contained, after charring 36,523 acres and killing eight people, Cal Fire said Thursday morning.

The Sulfur fire, which destroyed 134 homes in and around Clearlake, reached 96 percent containment. The Lake County fire has burned 2,207 acres since just before midnight Oct. 8.

You can reach Staff Writer Nick Rahaim at 707-521-5203 or nick.rahaim@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @nrahaim.