Of­fi­cials be­gin to ap­praise stag­ger­ing dam­age lev­els

San Francisco Chronicle - - WINE COUNTRY FIRES - By Jill Tucker and Kim­berly Vek­lerov Jill Tucker and Kim­berly Vek­lerov are San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle staff writ­ers. Email: jtucker@sfchron­i­cle.com and kvek­lerov@ sfchron­i­cle.com

The scale of dev­as­ta­tion in Sonoma County started to come into fo­cus Thurs­day as lo­cal of­fi­cials be­gan to as­sess the mas­sive losses.

There were 15 fa­tal­i­ties re­ported as of early af­ter­noon, a num­ber that of­fi­cials ex­pected would rise in the com­ing days.

Of the 1,000 peo­ple re­ported miss­ing, nearly 400 were still un­ac­counted for, said Sher­iff Rob Gior­dano. Searc­hand-res­cue teams with ca­daver dogs were start­ing to head into burn zones to look for the miss­ing.

“We’re mov­ing into a re­cov­ery phase,” Gior­dano said. “That is the re­al­ity part of it.”

Even as the fires con­tin­ued to threaten res­i­den­tial ar­eas on the south­east side of Santa Rosa, of­fi­cials of­fered the first of­fi­cial count of struc­tures lost, in­clud­ing 2,834 homes and more than 400,000 square feet of com­mer­cial space.

“We’re go­ing to be a long time re­cov­er­ing from this in­ci­dent,” said Mayor Chris Coursey. “The city of Santa Rosa has suf­fered a se­ri­ous blow.”

The city also lost a new fire sta­tion in the Foun­tain­grove neigh­bor­hood as well as two sewer lift sta­tions.

Thou­sands were still un­der manda­tory evac­u­a­tion or­ders and more than 4,000 peo­ple were in the 24 shel­ters open across the county.

“We ask for your pa­tience and your kind­ness to one an­other as we deal with this dis­as­ter as a com­mu­nity,” said Su­per­vi­sor Shirley Zane.

Winds con­tin­ued to fuel the fires in Sonoma County, in­clud­ing the flames from the Adobe Fire spread­ing through Ben­nett Val­ley, although there were no new evac­u­a­tions or­dered Thurs­day morn­ing.

Across the county, four ma­jor fires had burned more than 65,000 acres. They in­cluded the Tubbs Fire, which was just 10 per­cent con­tained Thurs­day. The Adobe Fire was just 1 per­cent con­tained, with 7,955 acres burned.

County res­i­dents were not al­lowed to re­turn to homes in manda­tory evac­u­a­tion zones and it was un­clear when that would hap­pen. Even in neigh­bor­hoods that were spared, it could be at least Mon­day be­fore they would be al­lowed back, Gior­dano said.

Many of those evac­u­ated still didn’t know if they still had a home.

Kather­ine Lukezic knew. Her home in Foun­tain­grove was gone. On Thurs­day morn­ing, she was at the bot­tom of Foun­tain­grove Park­way, try­ing to con­vince a po­lice of­fi­cer to let her up onto the hill. She wanted to see if any pic­tures or jew­elry were spared.

She had been alerted to the fire by a text from a friend and fled. “We grabbed noth­ing,” she said. In Foun­tain­grove and other ar­eas where some homes still stood among ruin, hun­dreds of po­lice of­fi­cers and Na­tional Guard sol­diers pa­trolled the evac­u­ated zones to pre­vent loot­ing. There had been few calls for loot­ing and five ar­rests in evac­u­a­tion zones as of Thurs­day, Gior­dano said.

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