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Aerial view of Sonoma County wildfire destruction, seen from a Cal Fire helicopter

The Estancia Apartments and surrounding homes are leveled in the Larkfield area of Sonoma County as seen in this aerial photograph taken from a Cal Fire helicopter, Thursday Oct. 19, 2017. (Will Bucquoy / For The Press Democrat)

WILL BUCQUOY,

Editor's Note: Freelance photographer Will Bucquoy joined Sonoma County supervisors James Gore and Lynda Hopkins in a Cal Fire helicopter ride across Sonoma County to survey the damage from local wildfires. Here is his account from the flight.

The first minutes after departing from the Sonoma County Airport by helicopter were filled with familiar views of the lush vineyards and deep green forested areas of Sonoma County. But there was nothing that prepared me for the sight of the stark devastation left in the aftermath of the Tubbs and Nuns fires as we reached the crest of the hills and mountains surrounding Santa Rosa, Calistoga, Larkfield and other area’s affected by the firestorms.

Homes stood seemingly untouched, surrounded by others that had been leveled. Familiar schools, churches, restaurants, parks and neighborhoods were destroyed, becoming unrecognizable. Memories and precious memorabilia were lost in what we now know was the most destructive wildfire in California’s history.

While it will no doubt require a long time to rebuild and heal from the damage and destruction of these devastating wildfires, it was heartening to see most of Sonoma County had been left whole and intact. This offers insight that an aerial view from a Cal Fire helicopter can’t provide — that we can come back from this. Through the smoke and from the ashes is a community of people that have come together in the most unprecedented way to help one another, determined to become better and stronger than ever before.

Click through the gallery above for an aerial view of Sonoma County after the wildfires.