Santa Rosa PD: Nuns fire rapidly approaches Oakmont, residents must leave now

- The Nuns Fire is rapidly approaching the Oakmont area. According to Santa Rosa Police, Oakmont is under mandatory evacuation and all residents must leave the area "now." That update was sent out just after 2 p.m.

Taken as a group, the wildfires in wine country that broke out Sunday night are already among the deadliest in California history. By Tuesday morning, 15 people were confirmed dead, at least 100 people were injured and at least 2,000 homes, businesses, a Catholic high school and  a Jewish camp have been destroyed, authorities said.

All three figures were expected to surge in the coming days as more information is reported. Sonoma County said it has received more than 200 missing-person reports as family and friends scramble to locate loved ones, though 45 had been found. The dead were reported in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Yuba counties.

On Tuesday morning, Napa County officials asked people to be patient because they were still not allowed to return to their homes, adding that fire crews were still in live-saving mode and could not put a number on structures that were damaged.

Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Napa County) stressed that he and other Congressional leaders have asked for FEMA funding to help. Napa County is home to three of the largest fires: Atlas Peak, Tubbs and Partrick, which combined, had totaled 60,000 acres by Tuesday. The fires broke out Sunday night, and no cause has yet been given.

 

Much of the damage was in Santa Rosa, a far larger and more developed city than usually finds itself at the mercy of a wildfire. The city is home to 175,000 residents, including both the wine-country wealthy and the working class. The mayor spoke to NPR on Tuesday morning at 4 a.m. describing the devastation for a national audience. A new fire broke out early Tuesday in the Oakmont area of Santa Rosa near a senior center.

On Tuesday, the city of Santa Rosa issued a “boil water notice” for the area of Fountaingrove because of the ash raining down.

Former San Francisco Giants pitcher Noah Lowry, who now runs an outdoor sporting goods store in Santa Rosa, was forced to flee in minutes along with his wife, two daughters, and a son just over 2 weeks old.

"I can't shake hearing people scream in terror as the flames barreled down on us," Lowry said.

His family and another evacuating with them tried to take U.S. 101 to evacuate but found it blocked by flames, and had to take country roads to get to the family friends who took them in.

The flames were fickle in some corners of the city. One hillside home remained unscathed while a dozen surrounding it were destroyed. The same was true for many neighborhoods. Some residents took to battling the flames themselves. One Napa homeowner raced through his backyard with a garden hose.

October has generally been the most destructive time of year for California wildfires. What was unusual Sunday, however, was to have so many fires take off at the same time.

Other than the windy conditions that helped drive them all, there was no known connection between the fires, and no cause has been released for any of them.

But the conditions late Monday and early Tuesday were calmer than they were 24 hours earlier, bringing hopes of progress against the flames.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for the fire areas, and asked the federal government to do the same. Vice President Mike Pence, who is visiting California, said at an event near Sacramento that the federal government stands with California as it takes on the blazes, but he made no specific promises. FEMA approved assistance grants for 10 fires, Cal Fire said on Tuesday.

The deadliest fire in California history was the Griffith Park fire in Los Angeles that killed 29 people in 1933. The most damaging California wildfire in terms of structures lost was 1991 Tunnel Fire in Oakland with 2,900 structures damaged or destroyed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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