Valley fire containment up to 75 percent

The blaze is now rated the third most damaging fire in California history, having destroyed at least 1,783 structures — more than 1,200 of them believed to be homes.|

As firefighters gain the upper hand on the devastating Valley fire in Lake, Sonoma and Napa counties, the magnitude of its destruction is coming into focus.

The blaze is now rated the third most damaging fire in California history, having destroyed at least 1,783 structures - more than 1,200 of them believed to be homes.

The inferno, now 75 percent contained, has claimed three lives, blackened almost 76,000 acres and forced more than 19,000 people from their homes.

But there was a glimmer of good news Monday as Lake County sheriff’s officials revealed that a half-dozen people who had been reported missing and feared dead have been found safe and sound.

“Currently we have no open cases we’re still investigating for missing persons. We’re hoping it stays that way,” Lake County Sheriff’s Lt. Norm Taylor said.

Reaching 75 percent containment - considered a turning point in the nine-day-old firefight - is more good news, fire officials said.

With just two main fire lines remaining in the Cobb and Aetna Springs areas, crews are now being sent to other fires around the state, said Cal Fire spokesman Dan Olson.

“We are turning the corner on this thing,” Olson said Monday afternoon, before the updated containment figure of 75 percent was released. “It’s 70 percent. That’s usually the number we like to see before we start taking a breath.”

But, Olson said, “We’re not letting our guard down.” He said 4,200 personnel remain on the blaze.

He could not estimate when the fire would be fully contained but predicted firefighters would remain at least another week, putting out hot spots, lighting backfires and doing mop-up work.

The increase in containment has allowed firefighters and county emergency officials to better evaluate the destruction left by the inferno and decide who can return to their homes - or what’s left of them.

Cal Fire on Monday updated the number of structures destroyed so far, adding in businesses and about 650 outbuildings to increase the figure from 1,050 to 1,783, making the Valley fire the third most damaging California fire ever recorded, said Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant. The three fire deaths place it 18th on the list of most deadly fires in state history, a rating that is not expected to rise.

The Valley fire is not among the 20 largest blazes in state history, despite having devoured 75,781 acres as of Monday night. The 2003 Cedar fire in San Diego, the state’s largest, burned 273,246 acres and 2,830 homes.

Throughout California, firefighters are battling five active fires that together cover nearly 400,000 acres, according to Gov. Jerry Brown, who on Monday requested a “major disaster” declaration from President Barack Obama that would allow federal dollars to help in the recovery.

More residents who were evacuated are expected to be allowed to return home as the fire is brought under control. But some areas will remain off-limits due to dangerous conditions such as downed power lines, officials said.

Evacuation centers will be closing as displaced residents return home, emergency officials announced. The evacuation center at the Napa County Fairgrounds in Calistoga is expected to close Thursday. Shelters at Grace Church in Kelseyville, the Clear Lake Senior Center in Clearlake, Twin Pines Casino in Middletown and the Hidden Valley Lake Golf Course remain open.

For those requiring long-term shelter and support services, a Local Assistance Center at 21256 Washington St. in Middletown can help people access available resources, officials said.

For complete wildfire coverage go to:

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or On Twitter @ppayne. You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or On Twitter @MendoReporter.

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