04:17 GMT +322 July 2018
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    A Sonoma City firefighter walks in front of flames during a backburn operation Friday, Oct. 13, 2017, in Glen Ellen , Calif.

    ‘Reinforcements are Coming,' But California Wildfires Continue to Take Lives

    © AP Photo/ Marcio Jose Sanchez
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    Battling the roaring flames across the northern California region, officials during a Friday briefing announced that the death toll has spiked to at least 33, making this season's wildfire the deadliest in the state's history. The flames have already displaced 90,000.

    Although there are now 17 fires enveloping more than 221,000 acres in California, Cal Fire officials were able to completely put out three smaller fires that erupted in Sonoma County.  

    ​Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott told reporters during the conference that the wildfires are being organized into four major areas — the central, south, Mendocino and wind complexes. Firefighters are currently focusing on the the central and south complexes, which encompass the Sonoma and Napa counties, respectively.

    "Our hearts go out to you, those affected by the fires, and we understand that lives have been changed forever by these events," Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California governor's Office of Emergency Services, said Friday. "This is difficult and we are dedicated to using every available resource to help you, to help the community, and to help the first responders out there to be able to mitigate the situation."

    Though Ghilarducci did offer words of hope, telling residents the state was "going to get through this" together, the director also noted that there was still a tough road ahead.

    ​With strong winds expected late Friday night going into Saturday, officials are concerned that the current low humidity rates the state is experiencing will help to spread flames.

    Roughly 425 police officers and more than 9,000 firefighters are combating the blazes while more than 170 engines were brought in from neighboring states. California has called on 840 fire engines from its own districts.

    ​"It's like pulling teeth to get law enforcement and firefighters to disengage from what they're doing out there — they're truly passionate about what they're doing to help the public," Barry Biermann, Napa County fire chief, said Friday. "But the reinforcements are coming in, and that's why you're seeing the progress that we're making."

    With over 5,700 homes and businesses reduced to nothing, including the home of Charles Schulz, the creator of the classic comic, "Peanuts," authorities have had to start using dental records, tattoos and hip implant serial numbers to identify victims. 

    ​"Some of them are merely ashes and bones, and we may never get truly confirmative identification on ashes," Rob Giordano, sheriff for Sonoma County, said Thursday. "When you're cremated, you can't get an ID."

    "We've been forced to work that direction because we may not have enough information to identify people, because of the fire and the severity of the burn," Giordano added.

    ​The cause of the fires, which began Sunday night and spread with the help of 70 mph wind gusts, is under investigation.


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