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Death toll rises to 32 in North Bay fires

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Sonoma County officials announced today that the death toll has risen to 32 after more remains were found at a mobile home park in Santa Rosa.

Sonoma County officials announced today that the death toll has risen to 32 after more remains were found at a mobile home park in Santa Rosa.

Officials said 18 of those deaths are from Sonoma County.

Firefighters have been taking advantage of calmer winds for now to gain the upper hand on wildfires that have been destroying neighborhoods throughout the North Bay.

MISSING PERSONS: Help find, reunite people missing in North Bay fires

On Friday, firefighters increased containment of the two largest wildfires burning in the region - The Atlas Fire and The Tubbs Fire.

Tubbs Fire in Napa County has now burned 34,770 acres and is 25 percent contained, that's up from 10 percent on Thursday.

The Atlas Fire in Napa County and Solano County grew by 5,000 acres to 48,228 acres and is now 27 percent contained, that's up from 7 percent yesterday.

The Partrick Fire west of Napa has burned 12,379 acres and is 18 percent contained

The Nuns Fire in Sonoma County has now burned 44,381 acres and is 5 percent contained.

North Bay residents are trying to find lost loved ones, to sift through the remains of lost homes, to count, identify and mourn the dozens of dead -- all while the fires rage on.

North Bay communities were preparing for another day under siege Friday, despite being driven to exhaustion by evacuations, destruction and danger amid the deadliest week of wildfires the state has ever seen. "It wears you out," said winemaker Kristin Belair, who was driving back from Lake Tahoe to her as-yet-unburnt home in Napa. "Anybody who's been in a natural disaster can tell you that it goes on and on. I think you just kind of do hour by hour almost."

The death toll was at an unprecedented 31 on Thursday, and was expected to keep rising. Individual fires including the Oakland Hills blaze of 1991 had killed more people than any one of the current fires, but no collection of simultaneous fires in California had ever led to so many deaths, authorities said. "We had series of statewide fires in 2003, 2007, 2008 that didn't have anything close to this death count," said Daniel Berlant, a deputy director with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Hundreds more were injured or missing.

LIST: Evacuations ordered, shelters open for North Bay fires


Real recovery would have to wait for firefighters to bring under control the 21 wildfires spanning more than 300 square miles. Most were less than 10 percent contained. New evacuations were still being ordered for fires that broke out on Sunday night. "We are not even close to being out of this emergency," said Mark Ghilarducci, director of the state's Office of Emergency Services.

Choking smoke hung thick in the fire counties and drifted all over the San Francisco Bay Area, where masks to filter the fumes were becoming a regular uniform and the sunsets were blood-red from the haze. "It's acrid now," said Wayne Petersen in Sonoma. "I'm wearing the mask because I've been here two or three days now, I live here, said Wayne Petersen in Sonoma. "It's starting to really affect my breathing and lungs so I'm wearing the mask. It's helping."

The fires drove hundreds of evacuees northward to beaches, some sleeping on the sand on the first night of the blazes.

Since then, authorities have brought tents and sleeping bags and opened public buildings and restaurants to house people seeking refuge in the safety and clean air of the coastal community of Bodega Bay, where temperatures drop dramatically at night. "The kids were scared," said Patricia Ginochio, who opened her seaside restaurant for some 300 people to sleep. "They were shivering and freezing."

VIDEO: Sonoma County sheriff update on North Bay fires

California Highway Patrol Officer Quintin Shawk took relatives and other evacuees into his home and office, as did many others. "It's like a refugee camp," Shawk said.

Teams with cadaver dogs began a grim search Thursday for more dead, resorting in some cases to serial numbers stamped on medical implants to identify remains in charred ruins.

MAPS: A look at each North Bay fire

Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano said officials were still investigating hundreds of reports of missing people and that recovery teams would begin conducting "targeted searches" for specific residents at their last known addresses. "We have found bodies almost completely intact, and we have found bodies that were nothing more than ash and bones," said the sheriff, whose office released the names of 10 of the dead, all age 57 or older, on Thursday.

Some remains have been identified using medical devices uncovered in the scorched heaps that were once homes. Metal implants, such as artificial hips, have ID numbers that helped put names to victims, he said. Distinctive tattoos have helped identify some.
Since igniting Sunday in spots across eight counties, the fires have transformed many neighborhoods into wastelands. At least 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed and an estimated 25,000 people forced to flee.

Fire officials were investigating whether downed power lines or other utility failures could have sparked the fires.

Some lucky evacuees returned to find what they least expected.

Anna Brooner was prepared to find rubble and ashes after fleeing Santa Rosa's devastated Coffey Park neighborhood. Then she got a call from a friend: "You're not going to believe this." Her home was one of only a handful still standing. "I swore when I left I was never coming back to this place," Brooner said. "I feel so bad for all the other people. All of us came back thinking we had nothing left."

IMPORTANT: If you are in need of resources, shelter, or assistance please click here -- and we will continue to update this page for resources and complete updates on road closures, school closures, and evacuation orders.

Click here for full coverage on the North Bay fires.

PHOTOS: Deadly fires burn in Napa, Calistoga areas
ABC7 News contributed to this report

Related Topics:
firenapa countybrush firefirefightersevacuationsonoma countywildfireNorth Bay FiresNapaSonomaSanta Rosa
(Copyright ©2017 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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