Valley Fire triggered scramble to turn fairground into shelter

25 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Common theme in fire deaths: hesitance to evacuate.

Satellite images taken by NASA show the staggering devastation left by the Valley Fire that killed at least four people as it leveled hundreds of homes earlier this month.Even after this year’s wildfires are fully contained, lives have been lost, and damage estimates of Lake County’s Valley Fire alone run into hundreds of millions of dollars.

The images from space were taken by infrared cameras on NASA’s Landsat 8 satellite as it passed over Lake County on Monday and capture the magnitude of the 76,067-acre fire. Federal officials are still working on the request for the other fire, said Kelly Huston, deputy director for the governor’s Office of Emergency Services. The town of Middletown is surrounded by acres of scorched land, the images show. “So when a weather system delivered abnormally hot temperatures and gusty winds to Napa, Sonoma, and Lake counties in northern California, the forests were primed to burn intensely,” NASA said.

On Wednesday, as authorities revealed they had found a fourth body amid the ruins of a blaze that was described as a fast-moving tornado, they also made clear that at least three of the deaths shared a tragic common element — victims who, for one reason or another, declined to take off immediately when first warned by police, neighbors or loved ones. “It appears they didn’t leave once they received notice to evacuate,” said Lt. The Monterey County Sheriff’s Department said Wednesday that firefighters found the suicide victim’s body Saturday near the fire’s ignition point.

As the death toll rises in California’s destructive wildfires, firefighters are moving closer to fully containing raging flames that have consumed thousands of homes. Steve Brooks with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. “When they say evacuate, it’s time to go.” It’s not an unusual story in California wildfires.

Residents stay because they don’t think the flames will reach them, or because they want to save pets and livestock, or because they want to protect their homes. Human remains-detection dogs had earlier searched Fletcher’s Cobb home, destroyed by the fire, without finding him, and an anthropologist had been summoned to assist. The fire, situated in Amador and Calaveras counties about 50 miles southeast of Sacramento, has now destoryed 475 homes and ravaged 70,868 acres of land. More than 2,800 firefighters are working to stamp out hot spots within the blaze, which is 85% contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. More than two weeks after the blaze started, Cal Fire announced on Thursday that all evacuation orders had finally been lifted and that the fire was nearly 90% contained.

On the afternoon of Sept. 12, sheriff’s deputies and fire officials fanned out across the rural roads beneath Cobb Mountain, where the fire started, to sound the alarm. Although firefighters have begun to gain an upper hand on several fires, warm temperatures this week could increase the danger again. “Even though fall officially started yesterday, the risk of wildfires has not ended,” Cal Fire said. “In fact, historically California experiences its largest and most damaging wildfires during the fall months.” Sheriff’s deputies said Leonard Neft, 69, of Anderson Springs and Bruce Beven Burns of Hidden Valley Lake were notified of the fire either by a phone call, a visiting official or a neighbor and told to evacuate, but didn’t. In their last conversation, a little before 8 p.m., Adela Neft could tell her husband was growing frightened. “He must have saw something,” she said. “I could hear he was scared in his voice.

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