13 October 2017
By Sunday Elom
At least 31 persons have been reported dead following the deadliest wildfires that ravaged Northern California.
On Thursday, the Sonoma County sheriff’s office released the names of 10 of the 17 people who died in the county, as well as some detail about the circumstances of their deaths.
Detail of the fires revealed that most victims and casualties were in their houses. One was next to a vehicle. Some bodies were intact, with recognizable tattoos while some were just ashes and may never be positively identified. Official said most of the people were elders.
The Sonoma County sheriff, Robert Giordano, said, “The youngest person is 57,” adding that of the 10 people he identified, “The bulk of them are in their 70s and 80s, so there is that commonality.”
Officials said they expect the number of fatalities to continue rising as detectives search burned-down homes. According to the official report, roughly 400 people in the Sonoma County have been reported missing and aren’t yet accounted for.
The Thursday fire is said to be the deadliest wildfire in California as the second single deadliest wildfire in California’s history was in 1933, when 29 people died in a Los Angeles brush fire.
Most of those who were identified on Thursday evening lived in Santa Rosa and the Larkfield community just across the freeway; who were also older and likely less able than some younger residents to quickly leave the area.
Those who managed to get out have told harrowing tales of last-minute escapes. Two people among the casualties were identified using serial numbers from medical devices, another two persons were identified through dental records, one was identified using tattoos, and the other five were identified through a combination of fingerprints, relatives and investigation.
According to Mr. Giordano, “Some of them are merely ashes and bones. We may never get a truly confirmative identification on ashes.”
The terrible state of some of the bodies testifies to the total destruction that the Tubbs Fire left in its wake as it rolled through Santa Rosa early Monday morning, destroying an estimated number of 2,000 homes in the city, along with roughly 400,000 square feet of commercial space.
Mr. Giordano said that much of the burned area was simply too hot for investigators to enter until Thursday. He said, “In the last couple of days, there was enough evidence” to do targeted searches for remains in certain homes, but it was too hot.”
He therefore disclosed that about 30 detectives, some with cadaver dogs, are now combing through the burned area, adding that, “We’ve got 400 missing person to go through… eventually we’ll search everywhere.”