×

Searchers look for bodies in California’s charred ruins

  • An exterior window frames a home destroyed by fires in Santa Rosa, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. Gusting winds and dry air forecast for Thursday could drive the next wave of devastating wildfires that are already well on their way to becoming the deadliest and most destructive in California history. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu) Jeff Chiu

  • Cal Fire forester Kim Sone is framed by a basketball hoop as she inspects damage at homes destroyed by wildfires in Santa Rosa, Calif., on Thursday. The wildfires are on their way to becoming the deadliest and most destructive in California history. AP

  • Cal Fire forester Kim Sone inspects damage at homes destroyed by wildfires in Santa Rosa, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. Gusting winds and dry air forecast for Thursday could drive the next wave of devastating wildfires that are already well on their way to becoming the deadliest and most destructive in California history. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu) Jeff Chiu

  • A burned out car lies among the charred remains of a home destroyed by wildfires in Santa Rosa, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. Gusting winds and dry air forecast for Thursday could drive the next wave of devastating wildfires that are already well on their way to becoming the deadliest and most destructive in California history. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu) Jeff Chiu

  • Cal Fire forester Kim Sone inspects damage at homes destroyed by fires in Santa Rosa, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. Gusting winds and dry air forecast for Thursday could drive the next wave of devastating wildfires that are already well on their way to becoming the deadliest and most destructive in California history. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu) Jeff Chiu

  • Smoke generated by wildfires fills the air in a vineyard Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, near Napa, Calif. Gusting winds and dry air forecast for Thursday could drive the next wave of devastating wildfires that are already well on their way to becoming the deadliest and most destructive in California history. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Jae C. Hong

  • The charred remains of a home, destroyed by a wildfire, stand among trees Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, near Napa, Calif. Gusting winds and dry air forecast for Thursday could drive the next wave of devastating wildfires that are already well on their way to becoming the deadliest and most destructive in California history. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Jae C. Hong

  • In this Oct. 11, 2017 photo, smoke rises from fires in Santa Rosa, Calif. Gusting winds and dry air forecast for Thursday, Oct. 12, could drive the next wave of devastating wildfires that are already well on their way to becoming the deadliest and most destructive in California history. (Derek Anderson via AP) Derek Anderson

  • A helicopter draws water from a pond to help put out a fire near Napa, Calif., on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. Gusting winds and dry air forecast for Thursday could drive the next wave of devastating wildfires. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli) Rich Pedroncelli

  • A note and face mask are seen on a statue in a downtown park filled with smoke from a wildfire in Sonoma, Calif., on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. Search-and-rescue teams, some with cadaver dogs, started looking for bodies Thursday in parts of California wine country devastated by wildfires, authorities said, sounding a warning that more dead were almost sure to emerge from the charred ruins.(AP Photo/John Mone) John Mone



Associated Press
Friday, October 13, 2017

Search-and-rescue teams, some with cadaver dogs, started looking for bodies Thursday in parts of California wine country devastated by wildfires, an indication that more dead were almost sure to emerge from the charred ruins of communities consumed by the flames.

At least 27 people have died and at least 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed by the blazes, which could become the deadliest and most destructive in California history.

Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano said officials were still investigating hundreds of reports of missing people and that recovery teams would soon begin conducting “targeted searches” for specific residents at their last known addresses.

“We have found bodies almost completely intact, and we have found bodies that were nothing more than ash and bones,” the sheriff said.

Some remains have been identified using medical devices that turned up in the scorched heaps that were once homes. Metal implants, such as artificial hips, have ID numbers that helped identify the person, he said.

Winds up to 45 mph were expected Thursday in areas north of San Francisco, and stronger, more erratic gusts were forecast for Friday. Those conditions could erase modest gains made by firefighters.

“We are not out of this emergency. We are not even close to being out of this emergency,” Emergency Operations Director Mark Ghilarducci told a news conference Thursday.

More than 8,000 firefighters were battling the blazes, and more manpower and equipment was pouring in from across the country and from as far as Australia and Canada, officials said.

The ferocious fires that started Sunday leveled entire neighborhoods in parts of Sonoma and Napa counties. In anticipation of the next round of flames, entire cities evacuated, leaving their streets empty, the only motion coming from ashes falling like snowflakes.

Fire officials are investigating whether downed power lines or other utility failures could have sparked the fires. It’s unclear if downed lines and live wires resulted from the fires or started them, said Janet Upton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

An estimated 25,000 people have been driven from their homes by the flames, including the entire community of Calistoga, a historic resort town known for wine tastings and hot springs with a population of 5,300. A few residents left behind cookies for firefighters with signs reading, “Please save our home!”

As the wildfires raged for a fourth day, they continued to grow in size. A total count of 22 fires on Wednesday changed to 21 on Thursday because two large fires had merged together, said state Fire chief Ken Pimlott.

Many burned out of control. The flames spanned more than 300 square miles, an area equivalent to the size of New York City’s five boroughs.

Fire crews reported some progress on a blaze burning in Napa and Sonoma Counties, the heart of wine country, bringing containment to 10 percent.

The ash rained down on Sonoma Valley, covering windshields, as winds picked up. Countless emergency vehicles hurried toward the flames, sirens blaring, as evacuees sped away after jamming possessions into their cars and filling their gas tanks.