SONOMA (KPIX 5) — For the people who lost everything to the Northern California wildfires, the next chapter is just beginning.

More than 6,000 people in Sonoma County lost their homes and most are desperate to go back and sift through debris.

Row after row of people packed into Sonoma County’s community meeting Thursday.

Among those present was Martin Grove, who lost his home in the fire and described the whole thing as “surreal”.

Everyone there had a similar story.

Barry Hirsch lost his home. He told KPIX 5, “It’s gone. It’s burnt. There’s nothing left.”

Barbara McElroy also lost her home and said she hasn’t been allowed to return to her property.

Since last Monday road blocks have kept them out. First responders are the only ones allowed in there.

Cal Fire PIO Jonathan Cox said, “We do not want the public back into these dangerous areas.”

Here’s what they do want you to do: register your losses with FEMA.

Eric Lamoureux with California Office of Emergency Services said, “Registering with the Federal Emergency Management Agency is critical to every service we’re going to be able to provide. If they don’t register, we don’t know what their needs are.”

They’re also asking you to sign a right of entry form allowing FEMA to remove hazardous waste from your property. Some are worried rain, which is predicted for Thursday evening, could drag debris into local watersheds.

The total damage from the recent California wildfires is expected to top $1 billion.

The fires burning in wine country are expected to be fully contained in the coming days.

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