Twenty-three days since an onslaught of deadly wildfires ravaged huge swaths of Sonoma County, the largest three blazes — the Tubbs, the Nuns and Pocket fires — were declared fully contained Tuesday and officially no longer a threat to property.
“I’m glad we’ve reached that point so folks can continue to move forward in the recovery. It’s very, very positive,” Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean said from Sacramento.
The containment designation stalled for several days as state and local fire officials pushed to wrap up remaining issues, mainly hot spots well within the perimeters of the fires, which together burned more than 110,000 acres in Sonoma and Napa counties.
For full containment to be reached in such blazes, firefighters need a solid perimeter line, and the fire can no longer grow from internal flare-ups.
“We have to be thorough, make sure there’s no chance anything is going to get across the line,” McLean said.
On Tuesday afternoon, Cal Fire Battalion Chief Marshall Turbeville and a firefighter were driving remote stretches of the Tubbs fire in the rural Mark West Springs Road area making sure things looked buttoned up.
“We feel good. It’s OK,” Turbeville said of the 100 percent designation.
The Tubbs fire, the single most destructive wildland blaze in state history — and the costliest in U.S. history, according to insurance officials — burned 36,807 acres along its path from eastern Napa County to northern Santa Rosa. It destroyed 6,000 structures, mostly homes, and claimed at least 21 lives.
The Rincon Valley Fire District, which surrounds Santa Rosa on three sides, took a direct hit in the blaze, with nearly a quarter of its jurisdiction burned, Rincon Valley Fire Chief Jack Piccinini said.
The 17,357-acre Pocket fire burned in remote, hilly terrain east of Geyserville and destroyed a handful of structures, officials said.
The 56,556-acre Nuns fire spread mostly across the Sonoma Valley and surrounding hills, scorching more than one-third of Kenwood. About 20,000 acres burned in parkland, Bennett Valley and Napa County.
A Glen Ellen woman and a man who lived off Bennett Ridge died in the blaze, which formed from six separate fires that started in the Oct. 8 windstorm. A water tank driver working on the fire line in Napa County died in a crash.
Sonoma Valley Fire Chief Steve Akre called damage in the region sobering. He estimated losses in Glen Ellen and Sonoma Valley communities outside of Kenwood could range from 650 to 1,000 structures, including secondary buildings.
“It really helps to frame the magnitude of it,” he said.
The fire burned more than a third of the Kenwood Fire Protection District.
“It’s worse than I expected. It’s kind of mind-boggling,” Kenwood Fire Chief Daren Bellach said.
While the official count remained unfinished, the fire appeared to have burned about 100 Kenwood residences, Bellach said.
For the area covered by the Sonoma Valley Fire and Rescue Authority, including the city of Sonoma, Glen Ellen and Valley of the Moon, 22 percent of the district, or 6,397 acres, burned.
Fire losses for other Sonoma Valley agencies ranged from 98 percent of the Mayacamas volunteers’ rugged and steep 8,000-acre jurisdiction along the Sonoma-Napa border to 42 percent for the Eldridge Fire Department, which protects the Sonoma Valley Developmental Center. The state care facility was evacuated but did not burn.
The local fire agencies — in many ways the hub of their communities — are focusing now on helping residents connect with services and tools to search through their properties.
“People are looking for that support,” Akre said.
Bellach, one of the county’s newer fire chiefs, said he and others are learning how to navigate scores of post‑fire issues, inside and outside their departments.
“No one really has had to deal with this before on this scale. It’s new to me,” Bellach said. “I’m talking to other chiefs. It’s all new to them as well.”
You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 707‑521-5412 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter@rossmannreport.