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California firefighters 'turned a corner' on historic blazes after calm weather, massive effort

October 16, 2017 - 8:12 am

(SANTA ROSA, CA.)  -- Fire officials in California said they "turned a corner" on one of the deadliest outbreaks of wildfires to ever hit the state after calm weather and a massive mobilization of firefighting resources that included some 11,000 firefighting personnel sent to battle the blazes.

Officials warned that several fires were not fully contained and remained dangerous even as they allowed thousands of displaced residents to return home to areas deemed safe. The number of people under evacuation orders dropped to 75,000 from 100,000. The blazes have raged out of control for over a week, killing at least 40 and destroying some 5,700 structures, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE).

Santa Rosa, a city of 175,000 in Sonoma County, was among the hardest-hit areas, with at least 2,834 homes, businesses and other buildings destroyed there. Critical infrastructure was also lost in the flames, including the city's fire station, according to Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey.

Emergency vehicles have since returned to Santa Rosa Police headquarters so crews can recuperate, and forecasters predict that Santa Rosa could get a dose of rain by Thursday.

The glimmer of hope in the fire-ravaged Wine Country comes after emergency personnel carried out mandatory evacuations in Northern California on Saturday and as firefighters fought what had been 16 large wildfires around the state that authorities say leveled entire neighborhoods.

But as Northern California's fires get tamed and weather brings possible precipitation, Southern California is seeing Santa Ana winds starting to gain strength.
As a result, officials have placed areas in the southern part of the state under extreme fire weather warnings.

On Saturday night, officials announced the death toll in the past week's outbreak increased from 38 to 40.

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