Thousands Of Firefighters Battling 22 Fires In Northern California

By Lizzie Johnson, Marissa Lang, Jenna Lyons and Evan Sernoffsky, San Francisco Chronicle

ST. HELENA, Calif. -- The wildland blazes that have flattened huge swaths of the Wine Country took their first fire crew victim on Monday -- a firefighter who was helping keep the stubborn Nuns Fire straddling Sonoma and Napa counties away from homes.

The unidentified contract firefighter died just before sunrise near the northern edge of the Nuns Fire -- north of Yountville -- when the water tanker he was driving downhill on Oakville Grade near Highway 29 rolled over. His death brought the number of people killed in the Northern California wildfires that started Oct. 8 to 41.

The firefighter was among 11,000 from around California and beyond who have been working the lines. They made progress Monday containing the infernos -- the Tubbs Fire, at 36,390 acres, is 70 percent contained; the Atlas Fire, at 51,064 acres, is 68 percent contained; and the Nuns Fire, at 48,627, is 50 percent contained.

President Trump, who has not visited the disaster scene, on Monday praised his administration's response.

``We have FEMA there. We have military there. We have first responders there,'' he said. ``It's a tragic situation. We are working very closely from the representatives from California and we're doing a good job.''

Firefighting efforts Monday were focused on the sprawling Nuns Fire, which continued to expand along its western boundary, just south of St. Helena.

Residents living in that area were warned to be ready to leave. In one of the towns, Rutherford, people adapted to the current reality of their fabled Wine Country valley while a steady flow of helicopters flew overhead.

Angelica Roessert, 22, said she'd grown used to hearing the staccato of helicopter blades. But the fire was closer than it had been the week before, and she and her boyfriend Rene Ortiz, 30, decided to drive south to Monterey.

``I don't feel safe here anymore,'' Roessert said before leaving the area. ``Just looking up that way, it's scary.''

At the St. Helena Cooperative Nursery School in Rutherford, meanwhile, 13-year-old Mazzy Jones had water colors spread out in front of her and an open pad of paper. While her mother taught preschool inside the little white schoolhouse, Jones painted the landscape in front of her -- ribbons of thick gray and white smoke streaming from the tops of trees, coalescing in heavy clouds hanging low over the ridgeline to the west.

Amid all this, the weather forecast for this week was cause for optimism. It includes the chance of rain.

``The weather was better than it was predicted,'' Deputy Brandon Jones of the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office said Monday. ``We had no significant flare-ups and no evacuations. The word from the front lines ... it was a good evening out there.''

Throughout the day, the Nuns Fire filled the air with thick smoke along the ridges in central Napa Valley as it pushed flames downhill. There was a voluntary rather than mandatory evacuation order in place, and on Beerstecher Road, near such wineries as Cakebread Cellars, masked workers could be seen picking the last fruits of harvest.

No homes apparently burned Monday.

It will be an exhausting and emotional road ahead for the thousands who lost everything. Some will be mourning the deaths of neighbors in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Yuba counties.

But even for the residents whose homes didn't burn, any semblance of normality remains far off.

In the fire-ravaged neighborhoods of Santa Rosa, residents were advised to boil their tap water before drinking or cooking with it. Many schools were closed in Napa and Sonoma counties, and fire continued to threaten homes in the Napa Valley community of Oakville.

Source : http://www.wral.com/firefighters-gain-upper-hand-on-northern-california-blazes/17348093/

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