Search for bodies after California fires

  • 18/10/2017
A helicopter drops water on a wind driven wildfire in Orange, California, U.S., October 9, 2017.  REUTERS/Mike Blake - RC1EA5801D10
Photo credit: Reuters

More evacuees are expected to return home in Northern California where the state's deadliest wildfires have killed at least 41 people and destroyed thousands of homes.

Officials say they expect the death toll to rise with 88 people unaccounted for in Sonoma County alone, as search-and-rescue teams combed through gutted homes looking for bodies.

Lighter winds have allowed the 11,000 firefighters battling the flames, which have consumed more than 213,000 acres, to gain control of two of the deadliest fires in wine country's Napa and Sonoma counties.

Tens of thousands of people who fled the flames in Sonoma County and elsewhere have been allowed to return home, with about 40,000 still displaced.

Daniel Mufson, 74, a retired pharmaceutical executive and one of scores of Napa Valley residents who lost their homes in the fires, described his sense of bewilderment.

"Now we're just trying to figure out what the next steps are. We're staying with friends, and dealing with the issues of dealing with insurance companies and getting things cleaned up," Mr Mufson, president of a community-activist coalition called Napa Vision 2050, told Reuters.

At least 5,700 homes and businesses have been destroyed by the wildfires that erupted a week ago and consumed an area larger than that of New York City.

Entire neighbourhoods in the city of Santa Rosa were reduced to ashes.

The wildfires are California's deadliest on record, surpassing the 29 deaths from the Griffith Park fire of 1933 in Los Angeles.