Dogs used to search for bodies in wildfi res
SONOMA, Calif. — Teams with cadaver dogs began a grim search Thursday for more bodies in parts of California wine country devastated by wildfires, resorting in some cases to serial numbers stamped on medical implants to identify remains that turned up in the charred ruins.
Many of the flames still burned out of control, and the fires grew to more than 300 square miles, an area as large as New York City.
Sonoma and Napa counties endured a fourth day of choking smoke, and many residents fled to shelters or camped out on beaches to await word on their homes and loved ones.
The fires have claimed 31 victims and were fast becoming the deadliest and most destructive in California history.
Some of the state’s most historic tourist sites, including Sonoma city and Calistoga in Napa Valley, were ghost towns populated only by fire crews trying to stop the advancing infernos.
Calistoga, known for wine tastings and hot springs, had dozens of firefighters set up at street corners. Ash rained down from the sky, and a thick haze covered the ground. Mayor Chris Canning warned that the fires were drawing closer and that all of the city’s 5,000 residents needed to heed an evacuation order.
“This is a mandatory evacuation. Your presence in Calistoga is not welcome if you are not a first responder,” Canning said during a news briefing, explaining that firefighters have no time to save people.
A few residents left behind cookies for fire crews with signs reading, “Please save our home!”
The wildfires claimed the home of “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz and all its memorabilia, but his widow has escaped. Schulz’s son Monte Schulz said a fire on Monday torched the Santa Rosa homes of his stepmother, 78-year-old Jean Schulz, and his brother, Craig Schulz.
Most of his father’s original artwork is in the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, and that has not been damaged.