While Puerto Rico struggles to recover from a devastating hurricane and unsympathetic president, California firefighters have been kept busy trying to contain a series of wildfires in Northern California. Some of them are so bad that a Sonoma County Sheriff said some of the victim’s bodies are so badly charred that it may be impossible to confirmed their identity.
"Some of (the remains) are merely ashes and bones," he said.
Thirty-six people have been killed since the wildfires began Sunday night, making this outbreak one of the deadliest in state history, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).
Wildfires in California began burning in late August. Watching the millions of acres of wildfires burn throughout the state, we can become complacent if we are not immediately threatened by them.
Because Northern California is the hardest hit, there is a tendency to think wildfires are far, far away. But, according to fire officials, there are many areas within Los Angeles County that are considered fire hazard zones. These areas are as close as Beverly Hills and Culver City.
Would you know what to do if a wildfire occurred near you? It may not be something you’ve ever seriously thought about, but it can happen. And since we are in the season for natural disasters of all types, we may as well get prepared for this one too—especially since it is more like to occur in California.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
•Create and maintain 100 feet of defensible space around your home.
•Use ember-resistant building materials to protect your home.
•Create your own emergency supply kit, as you would do in an earthquake.
•Develop your family communication and evacuation plan.
•Acquire other information and resources from emergency preparedness websites like www.readyforwildfire.org.
And, while we’re on the subject, let’s not forget our fire victims like a girl who lost both of her prosthetic legs when her house burned down. For a list of disaster rescue organizations, visit www.disastercenter.com.
Since Sunday, the deadly fires have consumed thousands of homes and forced evacuations in Northern California's wine country and produced unhealthy air quality in the San Francisco Bay The 48,000-plus acre Atlas fire in Napa and Solano counties was 45% contained Friday -- up from 3% the day earlier. The 44,000-acre Nuns fire in Sonoma County -- an amalgamation of three recently merged fires north and west of Glen Ellen -- was 5% contained.
The 34,000-acre Tubbs fire in Napa and Sonoma counties was 44% under control. The 34,000-acre Redwood and Potter fires in Mendocino County were 10% contained.
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The San Francisco Chronicle reported that 31-year-old Katie Lehnhard of Petaluma was identified as a suspect after a fire victim reported to police that fraudulent charges had been made against her bank account.
Police say they conducted a search and found a stash of personal identification information belonging to Santa Rosa fire victims staying in a shelter.
Lynne Stark-Slater, chief deputy public defender for Sonoma County, said she does not know if Lehnhard has a lawyer.
Stark-Slater said she also is not certain if Lehnhard has been charged, as the Superior Court in Sonoma County has closed temporarily due to fires.
Tens of thousands of people were forced from their homes during the wildfires in wine country.
Police advised residents to make sure their vehicles are locked and to contact the U.S. Postal Service to redirect mail if they have lost their home.
Smoke is descending into the coastal beach town of Santa Cruz from a fire that broke out late Monday, destroying four structures and injuring five firefighters.
Rob Sherman, division chief at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, says the fire in the Santa Cruz mountains has grown from 125 acres to 150 acres and was 5 percent contained.
About 150 homes have been evacuated and dozens of people are at two evacuation centers.
The state fire agency had previously said the cause was a house fire, but spokeswoman Angela Bernheisel says it's unclear if the structure was a house.
Here are the areas of Southern California with…
Here are the areas of Southern California with the highest fire hazard potential
While fires continue to rage in Northern California, the Orange County Register reports that more than 3.5 million homes in Southern California face some wildfire danger in hazard zones. Here’s a look at the areas Cal Fire has identified as hazard zones.
The Fire Hazard Severity Zones identify fire hazard, not risk. They are based on the conditions that give a likelihood that an area will burn over a 30- to 50-year period without considering modifications such as fuel reduction efforts. Fire risk is the potential damage a fire can do to the area under existing conditions.