Monday, December 11, 2017

A favourable forecast is expected to help California firefighters in the coming days as they work to contain the deadly wildfires there that have already claimed at least 40 lives.

The forecast follows a good night for firefighters Saturday in which workers were able to target the blazes and bring a good chunk into control.

“Most of the fire is pretty much blacked out,” Battalion Chief Chris Waters said of the Atlas fire, which has burned up at least 51,000 acres. “It was a really good night.”

The improved forecast is likely a welcome relief for bedevilled firefighters in Northern California, where strong winds made fighting the fires a nightmare Saturday. The winds are expected to be much more mild, and temperatures are expected to drop somewhat in coming days, making the situation more manageable for emergency responders.

The Atlas fire and the Tubbs fire — the other massive fire in the region that has ravaged the area — are both at least 50 per cent under control, fire chiefs say. But the fire has already been one of the worst in recent California history.

The fire has killed at least 40 people, while more than 100,000 people have been forced to evacuate from the area. More than, 5,700 structures have been destroyed, including nearly 3,000 homes in Santa Rosa.

There were 10,000 firefighters deployed to help in the efforts to extinguish the deadly fire, which threatens the very existence of some wine country towns there, and has ravaged towns, totally destroying homes and neighborhoods even further into urban areas.

Some of those neighbourhoods in urban areas lack the same sort of building code standards that is seen in homes built right next to mountains, and on the outskirt of town. As such, they often don’t have the same fire-retardant materials in them that could have aided in firefighting efforts, and potentially saved homes from ruin.

It’s not certain if the official death toll will stay at 41, as there are dozens of people missing in Sonoma county, where the fires have blazed. If those individuals unaccounted for end up being in the path of the blaze, the toll of the tragedy could conceivably rise.

Fire chiefs say that they expect the blaze to be extinguished by Friday, putting an end to the devastating tale that has dominated northern California recently.

The tragedy has produced horrifying stories of loss, and desperation, when people rushed to flee from the blazes as they swept down on their homes. In some areas, the fires approached with a devastating speed, bringing in hurricane force winds filled with embers and intense heat.

In some areas hit by the fires, virtually nothing has been left after the blazing heat moved through. Entire homes have been reduced to rubble and metal, leaving those returning to their homes with almost nothing to find and recover in the aftermath of the events that have turned their lives upside down.

But, while there may be little left for residents hoping to find pieces of the lives they’ve built, first responders still sift through, hoping to find all of the individuals who remain unaccounted for in the region.