HEALDSBURG (CBS SF) — The LNU Lightning Complex, which has been burning in Sonoma, Lake, Marin, Napa and Solano counties, was 55 percent contained by late Saturday as thousands of evacuees continued to return to their homes and businesses.
The fire complex, the third largest wildfire outbreak in California history, had grown to 373,920 acres, destroyed 1,210 structures and claimed five lives.
While some were dealing with the destructive nature of the massive blaze, others found that their homes and businesses escaped damage.
The owner of New Tree Ranch, Ed Newell, on Wallace Creek Road in Healdsburg didn’t expect his property to survive the fierce flames. Traces of fire retardant in the garden are still evident.
The fire crawled onto part of the 120-acre vacation retreat, but it was largely spared.
About one mile away, homes on the same street didn’t have the same fate.
“Kind of strange, you know, you get ready for your property to be gone and next thing you know it’s standing there,” Newell said. “So it’s a great relief and we’re really excited to get back.”
Newell was able to safely evacuate his ranch animals. The ranch home was untouched. He credits maintaining defensible space and the tireless work of firefighters for saving his property.
“Once we got back on Friday, there’s 14 fire trucks surrounding our property and other properties on Wallace Creek. Amazing – I think they were from Los Angeles,” Newell said. “We’re just so thankful to them.”
In downtown Healdsburg, Harmon Guest House was encouraged by the evening’s turnout at its rooftop bar, after being closed for a week.
“It’s promising that people are willing to come back and experience Sonoma Wine Country and Healdsburg. We have all the restaurants open now, we have all the hotels open,” said Piazza Hospitality Co-Founder Paolo Petrone. “Everybody is eager to have some sense of normality.”
Several diners took advantage of outdoor dining downtown, and a chance to support local businesses.
“We just like coming to Healdsburg,” said Windsor resident Chris Hoover. “I mean look at it.”
Saturday was the first day some Healdsburg residents got the okay to return home. Viola Delameter lives on West Dry Creek Road, and is cautiously relieved.
“My neighborhood is allowed to go back on warning, which means, don’t unpack,” she said.
Meanwhile along the fire lines, crews continue to take advantage of favorable weather conditions Saturday to construct additional control lines, Cal Fire said. Damage inspection teams have been assigned to the incident and were conducting a thorough inspection of the affected area.