California fire officials planning repopulation of evacuated areas

02:08 - Source: CNN
Homeowners cry as they return after fire

Story highlights

"We are not out of the woods yet," governor says

At least 40 people killed; more than 200 missing

CNN —  

While firefighters continue to battle the fires in Northern California, a number of evacuees are being allowed to head home. Some of them are discovering they’ve lost everything.

One of them was Janice Mathis, who found a heap of mangled metal, rocks and blackened trees in place of her three-bedroom, three-bath house.

But she considered herself lucky to be alive, she said.

“I’m realizing you don’t put your boots on and your gloves on and go sift through stuff,” Mathis told CNN affiliate KOVR. “There’s nothing to sift through.”

“The first thing we think of is we’re fortunate,” she said.

Mathis’ home in Napa is one of thousands reduced to smoldering ruins since the wildfires began October 8.

With more than a dozen fires still burning, 11,000 firefighters are not only battling the blazes, but painstakingly combing the rubble in incinerated neighborhoods, looking for victims.

At least 40 people have died and more than 200 people are reported missing. And those who made it out alive are returning home to a heartbreaking new reality.

Latest developments

  • An estimated 217,000 acres have burned, according to a Sunday update from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire). An estimated 5,700 structures have been destroyed.
  • Approximately 75,000 people have been evacuated, Cal Fire said.
  • The 50,000-plus Atlas fire in Napa and Solano counties was 56% contained as of Sunday – up from 3% three days earlier.
  • The Nuns fire in Sonoma County had consumed more than 47,000 acres and was 25% contained.
  • Sonoma County was assessing damage on Sunday, the sheriff’s office said, to determine if evacuated residents could soon return home.
  • The city of Napa lifted its evacuation orders Sunday, according to a tweet from the city’s verified Twitter page.

’Devastation is just unbelievable’

The outbreak of wildfires has become one of the deadliest in the state history, according to Cal Fire.

Gov. Jerry Brown, and U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, toured areas hit by fires Saturday.

“This is truly one of the greatest, if not the greatest tragedy that California has ever faced,” Brown said. “The devastation is just unbelievable, is a horror that no one could have imagined.”

Brown announced Friday the state secured federal aid to assist residents who suffered losses and additional funding to remove debris and take emergency protective measures.

“We are not out of the woods yet, there’s still fires burning. There’s still danger,” Brown said.