Full re­cov­ery from wild­fires may take years

CAL­I­FOR­NIA’S WORRY

Cebu Daily News - - WORLD -

SANTA ROSA, Cal­i­for­nia — It will take at least months and likely years to fully re­cover from dev­as­tat­ing wild­fires that ripped through North­ern Cal­i­for­nia ear­lier this month, de­stroy­ing at least 8,900 struc­tures and killing 42 peo­ple, Sonoma County of­fi­cials said Satur­day.

“We don’t con­trol these things, and it makes you re­al­ize how small you are in the world when some­thing like this hap­pens,” Sher­iff Rob Gior­dano said. “I don’t think we un­der­stand the level at which it is go­ing to im­pact lives, and the com­mu­nity will be dif­fer­ent.”

Gior­dano spoke be­fore hun­dreds of peo­ple gath­ered at a col­lege in Santa Rosa, one of the hard­esthit cities, for a memo­rial ser­vice to honor the lives lost in the dead­li­est se­ries of wild­fires in Cal­i­for­nia his­tory. The fires sparked Oc­to­ber 8, even­tu­ally forc­ing 100,000 peo­ple to evac­u­ate.

Be­fore a bell rung 42 times to com­mem­o­rate the dead, Gior­dano and other of­fi­cials praised the or­di­nary and ex­tra­or­di­nary acts of hero­ism by first re­spon­ders and com­mu­nity mem­bers as the fire­fight raged on for more than a week. Some fire­fight­ers worked days on the front line, re­fus­ing to take breaks, while sher­iff’s dis­patch­ers con­tin­ued tak­ing calls even as the fire came close to tak­ing out their build­ing.

“The night of Oct. 8, we were all tested,” Santa Rosa fire Chief Tony Goss­ner said.

U.S. House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi and five mem­bers of Congress spent Satur­day at­tend­ing the memo­rial, tour­ing the fire rav­aged ar­eas and gath­er­ing ad­vice from fed­eral, state and lo­cal of­fi­cials on what Congress can do to aid the re­cov­ery ef­forts. In a brief­ing in Santa Rosa, of­fi­cials asked them to ease red tape that will make it eas­ier to erect tem­po­rary hous­ing and to en­sure the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency has the re­sources it needs to clean up any haz­ardous ma­te­rial be­fore it in­fil­trates the wa­ter sup­ply.

The EPA has as­sessed 740 prop­er­ties so far, while the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agen- cy has given out 6 mil­lion worth of rental and other as­sis­tance to dis­placed Cal­i­for­ni­ans, of­fi­cials said. Of­fi­cials es­ti­mate the cleanup of de­bris and other haz­ardous ma­te­ri­als will last into early 2018. The losses are es­ti­mated to be at more than 1 bil­lion.

Pelosi and U.S. Rep. Mike Thomp­son, who rep­re­sents Santa Rosa, said they must make their fel­low law­mak­ers in Wash­ing­ton un­der­stand the un­prece­dented na­ture of the fires, the dead­li­est in Cal­i­for­nia his­tory. They drove through a neigh­bor­hood near Cof­fey Park where en­tire streets are wrecked, with only burned-out cars and charred re­mains of once-stand­ing houses lin­ing the streets.

“It was just un­fath­omable the amount of de­struc­tion that we saw,” Pelosi said.

/AP

Fire­fighter Chris Oliver walks be­tween grapevines as a he­li­copter drops wa­ter over a wild­fire burn­ing near a win­ery in Santa Rosa, Cal­i­for­nia, in this Oc­to­ber 14, 2017 photo.

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