The horrific wildfires along the U.S. west coast have left a trail of destruction in their path.
As the death toll reaches 40, firefighters in the area say they’re finally beginning to get an upper hand on the raging inferno that’s ravaged California.
Considered the most destructive group of fires in the state’s history, this disaster was attributed to a number of factors. The dry climate coupled with high winds created a recipe for disaster, leaving individuals, families, and entire communities fleeing for their lives and watching helplessly as the blaze consumed everything, both natural and man-made.
Napa County Supervisor Belia Ramos said: “A week ago this started as a nightmare, and the day we dreamed of has arrived.”
A welcomed stroke of luck helped fire crews get the advantage they needed to control the situation. Winds didn’t flare up during the night as much as predicted, stopping the spread of the blaze.
A spokesperson for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection noted that this change was a sign that responders have finally turned a corner on this deadly natural disaster. Well over 5,000 structures are believed to have been destroyed, and the death toll could continue climbing as people search through the ruins and wreckage for missing people.
The dangers are far from over, but some areas have already gotten through the worst of it. Some individuals are being allowed to return to their homes in locations where the fires have been put out. Evacuation orders, which were originally around 100,000 in total, were slashed by one-fourth as responders succeeded in gaining more control of the situation.
While some who were affected by the disaster were eager to return home to try and salvage whatever was left of their property, others were reluctant to see the inevitable results of the historic fire.
One victim, Juan Hernandez, escaped from his apartment in early October before the structure burnt down. Even now, he still has his car packed in case the fires were to flare up once more. He said: “Every day we keep hearing sirens at night, alarms. We’re scared. When you see the fire close to your house, you’re scared.”
Evacuees received help at the Sonoma fairgrounds, where haircuts, chiropractic treatment, and other resources were made available to them. While the shelters many evacuees were rushed to served as much-needed safe areas, they also made it very tough to sleep. Close quarters and sounds like barking dogs and snoring kept some of the evacuees up.
It took almost 11,000 firefighters to fight fires across 15 acres. The 100-mile area also presented severe hazards due to the presence of smoke even once the fires were out. Firefighters made a stand against the blaze along Highway 12, stopping the flames from reaching a retirement community and the wineries in Sonoma Valley.
Helicopters also helped control the blaze, delivering water drops to areas where flames were especially chaotic. More details are expected to emerge about the full damage of the fires in the coming weeks.