OAKVILLE, Napa County (CBS SF) — Mandatory wildfire evacuations were lifted for areas affected by the wine country wildfires, while other displaced residents were being urged to have patience as it could take days or weeks for them to return to their fire-ravaged neighborhoods.
Meanwhile, the driver of a water tender truck servicing firefighters was killed in Napa County early Monday when his vehicle careened out of control down a steep grade, rolled down an embankment and came to rest upside down, authorities said.
The crash involving a Cal Fire contractor was reported at 6:50 a.m. in Oakville, just west of state Highway 29 northwest of Yountville. The tender had been involved in battling the Nuns-Partrick Complex Fire burning in northern Napa County.
“This (the Oakville Grade) is a very, very steep road,” Cal Fire spokesman David Shew said.”The Oakville Grade is the steepest road in Napa County.”
Shew would not release the identity of the driver and would not speculate if fatigue played a role in the crash. “Any incident like this is very tragic,” Shew said. “It effects us (firefighters) personally.”
Major Northern California Wildfires (Source: Cal Fire)
As of Monday 11:00 a.m. PT
Cherokee Fire – 8,417 acres, 100% contained – Off Cherokee Road and Zonalea Lane, Oroville
La Porte Fire – 6,151 acres, 95% contained – La Porte Rd. and Oro Bangor Hwy, Bangor
Sulphur Fire – 2,207 acres, 85% contained – Off Hwy 20, Sulphur Bank Road, Clearlake Oaks
Redwood Valley Fire – 35,800 acres, 50% contained – N of Hwy 20, W of Mendocino National Forest, S of Black Bart
Tubbs Fire – 36,390 acres, 70% contained – Off Hwy 128 and Bennett Ln, Calistoga
Lobo Fire – 821 acres, 97% contained – near Lone Lobo Trail, Rough and Ready
Nuns/Norrbom/Pressley/Adobe/Partrick Fires – 48,627 acres, 50% contained – Highway 12, N of Glen Ellen
Oakmont Fire – 875 acres, 15% contained – east side of Highway 12 near the Oakmont community
Pocket Fire – 11,889 acres, 40% contained – Off Pocket Ranch Rd and Ridge Ranch Rd, Geyserville
Cascade Fire – 9,989 acres, 96% contained – Cascade Wy & Marysville Rd, N of Collins Lake
Prior to Monday’s crash, there had not been no major injuries or deaths among the 11,000 firefighters battling the deadliest outbreak of wildfires in California history.
As of early Monday, the death toll among residents in Northern California stood at 40.
In Sonoma County, the county’s death toll from the fires remained at 22 but 88 other people remain missing, Sheriff Rob Giordano said.
Sheriff’s deputies and members of the National Guard were doing targeted searches for the missing people as well as general searches of burned-out neighborhoods, Giordano said.
“We don’t want to miss a person,” he said.
Sonoma County flareup
A new fire that began over the weekend in Sonoma County, the Oakmont Fire, was proving to be troublesome Monday. The fire north of Kenwood was threatening to merge with the massive Nuns Fire complex in Napa County.
The fire was at 875 acres and just 15% contained as of Monday afternoon. Cal Fire officials said the Oakmont Fire was “very active” and was
burning north with a “moderate rate of spread.”
“Our big trouble spot is Oakmont,” said Santa Rosa Fire Chief Tony Gossner.
Evacuations lifted – for some
All 8,000 people evacuated from homes in Mendocino County have now been allowed to return home or to the remains of their homes, Sheriff Thomas Allman said Monday.
County Supervisor Rob Brown said that for some people, life will never be the same. “You’ll see benefits within years, but you’re literally in for decades of recovery,” said Brown.
Sonoma County Sheriff Giordano said there is “a lot of pressure” from residents wanting to get back to check on their homes but he said it will be days or weeks before they can do so in many cases.
Crews have been working around the clock to connect water and power, in some cases putting up new poles next to smoldering trees, the sheriff said.
The number of those under evacuation orders was down to about 40,000 Monday from nearly 100,000 the day before. Evacuations were lifted Monday for the Bennett Valley community of Santa Rosa, Kenwood, Glen Ellen, Boyes Hot Springs and the city of Sonoma.
A number of major road closures remain, including portions of Bennett Valley Road, Warm Springs Road and State Highway 12.
Residents of Geyserville and Healdsburg have been told they can go home.
Firefighters were still waging a fight with the flame in the Oakmont neighborhood of Santa Rosa.
“While we are very happy to see the containment numbers going up on these fires and people are being allowed to return home, for the firefighters on this line these fires are far from out.” Shew said. “There is still an enormous amount of work to do and as we all know this is day 8 … fatigue is definitely a factor.”
In Napa County, the mandatory evacuation of the Berryessa Highlands community was lifted Monday afternoon. Evacuation orders were also lifted Sunday for the city of Calistoga, the city of 5,000 known for its mud baths, mineral spas and wine tastings. The city was cleared out Wednesday as winds shifted, but homes and businesses were spared.
All of Monticello Road and state Highway 121 — known as “The Corners” — south to Wooden Valley Road and beyond to Vichy Avenue in the
Napa area, and all of Wooden Valley Road are still closed, sheriff’s officials said.
In Solano County the sheriff’s office announced that mandatory evacuation areas would be reopened to residents with proof of residency. All previous road closures will remain in place for the general public.
The Twin Sisters area remained without power. Twin Sisters Road will remain closed at Suisun Valley Road to all non-residents until power can be restored.
With the exception of Twin Sisters Road, all other Solano County Road closures reopened to the general public Sunday evening.
Progress on fires
Fire crews were able to gain ground because the winds that had fanned the flames did not kick up overnight as much as feared.
“A week ago this started as a nightmare, and the day we dreamed of has arrived,” Napa County Supervisor Belia Ramos said.
“Conditions have drastically changed from just 24 hours ago, and that is definitely a very good sign,” said Daniel Berlant, spokesman for California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, who noted that some of the fires were 50 percent or more contained. “It’s probably a sign we’ve turned a corner on these fires.”
The fires have destroyed some 5,700 homes and other structures. The death toll could climb as searchers dig through the ruins for people listed as missing. Hundreds were unaccounted for, though authorities said many of them are probably safe but haven’t let anyone know.
Many evacuees grew increasingly impatient to go home — or at least find out whether their homes were spared. Others were reluctant to go back or to look for another place to live.
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