October 17, 2017

USA: Fires Burning Across Northern California Have Scorched 220,000 Acres, Claimed 40 Lives Since They Began Oct. 8th. 😢 Also Sharing Beautiful Miraculous Survival Story.

Los Angeles Times
written by Laura J. Nelson, Joseph Serna, Ben Poston and Soumya Karlamangla
Sunday October 15, 2017

Firefighters made significant progress Sunday on two of the biggest wildfires raging across Northern California, but officials cautioned that they still face major challenges.

The winds that bedeviled firefighters Saturday remained mostly calm, allowing them to go back on the offense after a day of new evacuations. Officials said they strengthened containment lines on the massive Tubbs and Atlas fires, which by Sunday evening were 60% and 65% contained, respectively.

“Any day we don’t have flareups and significant fire activity popping up unexpectedly in those communities that are affected is a good day,” said Paul Lowenthal, assistant fire marshal for the Santa Rosa Fire Department. “I would say today is a step in the right direction.”

By Sunday evening, residents of some neighborhoods, including parts of Larkfield-Wikiup, Calistoga and areas south of Lake Curry, were allowed to go home.

In Solano County, evacuations remain in place for the Berryessa Highlands, Circle Oaks and Green Valley communities, among other neighborhoods, but officials have changed their tone in describing the Atlas fire.

No longer are they emphasizing the risk of potential devastation to more homes, 303 of which have already been destroyed by the blaze. Instead, they’re pleading for patience while they mop up the fire’s hot spots and have crews repair roads and clear out scorched debris and fallen trees.

Firefighters on Sunday shifted their focus to the 48,000-acre Nuns fire, moving more than a dozen fixed-wing aircraft from the Atlas fire to fight that blaze. By Sunday evening, the Nuns, burning southeast of Santa Rosa, was 40% contained but remained active on its north end.

“We have some areas out there that are just fighting us, they are bucking us,” said Cal Fire incident commander Bret Gouvea. “We have good resources on them, we have a lot of aircraft on them, but they are just bucking us back.”

Another major concern is a wildfire near the Oakmont area of Santa Rosa. The fire, which has scorched 575 acres since igniting Saturday, is 15% contained.

The fires are among a series of blazes burning across Northern California that have scorched more than 220,000 acres and claimed at least 40 lives since they began Oct. 8. Twenty-two people have died in the Tubbs fire in Sonoma County, eight in Mendocino County, four in Yuba County and six in Napa County.

Sonoma County officials on Sunday released the names of four fire victims. They are Sharon Rae Robinson, 79, of Santa Rosa; Daniel Martin Southard, 71, of Santa Rosa; Lee Chadwick Roger, 72, of Glen Ellen; and Carmen Colleen McReynolds, 82, of Santa Rosa.
Many more people were being treated for burns, smoke inhalation and injuries suffered as they evacuated, including one person who was kicked by a horse and another who collided with a firetruck in the thick smoke.

As of late Sunday, 174 people were still missing in Sonoma County, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Of 224 people initially unaccounted for in Napa County, 146 have been found safe, four have been identified as dead and 74 remain missing, Napa County spokeswoman Molly Rattigan said.

As many as 10,000 firefighters from throughout California and surrounding states have battled the fires around the clock.

“I know a lot of you are hurting, bleeding,” Gouvea of Cal Fire told firefighters at a Sunday morning briefing at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. “It’s been a long road. You couldn’t do any more for us, and I sincerely appreciate the effort. We are going to get this done, very shortly.”

While some residents breathed a sigh of relief Sunday that their homes were spared, others whose homes are now rubble struggled with what to do next.

Daniel Crowell and his 9-year-old daughter, Iris, whose Coffey Park home burned down last week, got a rental van and filled it to the ceiling with donated boxes of toiletries, gallons of water and other supplies to take to people in Santa Rosa.

“I felt helpless, and it felt like the best thing to do when you feel helpless is to help others,” said Crowell, 43.

He woke up to the smell of smoke the night of Oct. 8 and rushed out of the house with his daughter and 6-year-old son as their front lawn began to catch fire. “I knew right then, this is it. It’s gone,” he said.

After losing their home, the Crowells spent a few days in shock, grieving its loss. All that was left were Crowell’s car, two metallic folding chairs that peeked out of the rubble and ashes.

Eventually, they sought a distraction.

“We have friends and family who have been supporting us and helping us, but I know there are people who don’t have that, and I felt like I needed to do something just to kind of help make sure people get through this,” said Crowell, who works at a school in Santa Rosa.

Next weekend, they plan to move in to a friend’s home in Santa Rosa that’s two miles away.

“It’s smaller than what we’re used to, but at the same time we don’t have any possessions, so I think it’ll probably work out pretty good,” said Crowell, laughing.

Over the next few days, weather conditions are expected to improve significantly, said Charles Bell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Winds from the southwest could bring cooler temperatures and more moisture.

There is a 70% chance of rain forecast for Santa Rosa on Thursday evening, with relative humidity in the area expected to increase to more than 90% ahead of the rain system, Bell said.

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CBS SF Bay Area
written by Staff
Monday October 16, 2017

SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) — With the deadly flames of the Tubbs Fire bearing down on his property, Roland Tembo Hendel knew it was time to round up his family, dogs and cats flee.

But there simply was no room for the family’s flock of goats.

“By 11:10 we could see the first of the flames across the valley,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “By 11:15 they were growing larger and the winds went mad. We had loaded up the dogs and cats, but Odin, our stubborn and fearless Great Pyrenees would not leave the goats.”

Odin — living up to the Norse god he is named after — would not abandon the flock.

So the family reluctantly and with heavy hearts, watched Odin was they were departing, hoping they would see him again but knowing it was likely he would not survive.

“Even under the best of circumstances it is nearly impossible to separate Odin from the goats after nightfall when he takes over the close watch from his sister Tessa,” Hendel wrote. “I made a decision to leave him, and I doubt I could have made him come with us if I tried.”

The escape proved harrowing as the fire erupted along Mark West Springs Road. The journey through the flames would prove deadly for one of Hendel’s neighbors — Lynne Powell — but his family finally reached safety.

“Cars behind us on Mark West Springs Road were pouring flames out of the windows as they roared down the road,” he wrote on Facebook. “Later that morning when we had outrun the fires I cried, sure that I had sentenced Odie to death, along with our precious family of bottle-raised goats.”

After the fire subsided enough for the Hendel family to return to their burned out home, they braced for the worst.

“We were able to make it back to the smoldering wasteland of our forest,” Hendel wrote on Facebook. “Every structure is in ruins. Trees are still burning.”

But suddenly, the goats appeared and raced toward the family. And there was Odin — fur burned, whiskers melted, limping on his right leg. The battle injuries suffered in his desperate fight with the flames.

During the firestorm Odin not only protected his flock, he also seems to have adopted several baby deer who were huddled around him for safety.

“Odin has lived up to his namesake,” Hendel wrote. “Pray for him and his charges. He is our inspiration. If he can be so fearless in this maelstrom, surely so can we.”

Like many evacuees, Odin, Tessa and their goats were spending Sunday in a evacuation center — the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

The family set up a funding site to help pay for Odin’s medical care —

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