Firefight continues; $3B in commercial, residential losses; some evacuation orders lifted
Here’s a quick look at the latest fire news from Sonoma County and the surrounding North Bay, including Mendocino, Lake and Napa counties and elsewhere.
Sonoma County officials say 102,000 residents were displaced this weekend by fires still burning in Sonoma County, some with no homes to return to and others merely evacuated for safety reasons. Several evacuations were lifted late Sunday.
Just more than 1,850 people stayed in official evacuation centers overnight Saturday, and many other fire victims and evacuees appear to have found lodging with friends or family, or in hotels.
The six-figure overall dislocation remained stunning, Sonoma County spokeswoman Hannah Euser said.
“That’s one-fifth of our population,” she said.
Even more stunning: Preliminary county damage assessment has revealed 3,819 unincorporated parcels with assumed 100 assumed structure loss.
This represents a $2,016,962,239 loss in unincorporated Sonoma County.
When added to city losses during the past week — at least 3,470 structures, including 2,907 homes in the city of Santa Rosa and 86 commercial units lost — and the estimated $1.18 billion in damage, the total exceeds $3 billion in total countywide losses.
Declining wind speeds and the continued arrivals of additional firefighting personnel have bolstered efforts to gain the upper hand on relentless wildfires that have killed at least 22 people in Sonoma County over the last week.
The devastating Tubbs fire that started outside Calistoga Oct. 8 and tore through the Mark West Creek Canyon to central Santa Rosa is now 60 percent contained, fire officials said Sunday.
Heavy black lines now outline portions of every local fire on Cal Fire maps.
“That black is really important to us,” agency spokesman Jonathan Cox said.
All evacuation advisories have been lifted for Healdsburg.
In addition, the mandatory evacuation in the Wikiup area north and east of Old Redwood Highway including Fought Road is lifted.
Also, the mandatory evacuation for the Larkfield area north of the Larkfield Market outside the fire perimeter is lifted.
A suspected arsonist was arrested at Maxwell Farms Regional Park in Sonoma on Sunday afternoon after he was seen leaving a creek bed where a fire was burning, authorities said.
Three Sonoma County Probation Officers patrolling the area because of ongoing fires in the region noticed Jesus Fabian Gonzalez, 29, walking out of the creek area and a plume of smoke behind him, sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Crum said.
Sheriff’s Deputy John Grohl was called to the scene and extinguished the fire, which was then completely doused by Sonoma Valley Fire Protection District personnel.
Gonzalez was wearing a trench coat and told officers he started the fire because he was cold, Crum said.
Gonzalez lives under a bridge nearby and is well-known to law enforcement, he said.
He was arrested for suspected felony arson and transported to the Sonoma County Jail for booking.
Fire crews will have warm, dry conditions to contend with again on Monday, with highs around 90 and low humidity.
But cool, wet weather is forecast for later in the week, with measurable rain likely arriving Thursday evening and into Friday, National Weather Service forecaster Rick Canepa said.
“Wetting rains are excellent news for the fires,” Canepa said Sunday. “That’s excellent news for sure.”