Natural disasters

Northern California looking at years of recovery from devastating wildfires

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 October, 2017, 6:03am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 October, 2017, 6:03am

Sonoma County officials said on Saturday it will take at least months and likely years to fully recover from devastating wildfires that ripped through Northern California earlier this month, destroying at least 8,900 structures and killing 42 people.

“We don’t control these things, and it makes you realise how small you are in the world when something like this happens,” Sheriff Rob Giordano said during a memorial ceremony honouring the 42 lives lost. “I don’t think we understand the level at which it is going to impact lives, and the community will be different.”

The memorial service comes nearly three weeks after the fires erupted October 8, going on to force about 100,000 people to evacuate.

US House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and five members of Congress attended the service in Santa Rosa, one of the hardest-hit cities, as part of a day of touring the devastated areas and meeting with elected officials.

31 killed in deadliest wildfires in California’s history with hundreds missing

“I can’t think of anything that surpasses the opportunity to be with all of you today,” Pelosi said before presenting a flag that flew over the US Capitol to commemorate the fire victims.

Pelosi was joined by US Representative Mike Thompson, who represents the city of Santa Rosa, and Representatives Jared Huffman, Anna Eshoo, Zoe Lofgren and Mark DeSaulnier.

The group toured a destroyed health centre and met with county and federal officials to ask how Congress can help. Local officials urged them to cut red tape that makes it harder to get temporary housing and other needed resources for people who lost their homes.

Officials estimate more than US$1 billion in losses, but they haven’t provided a hard number.

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Clean-up could last into early 2018, preventing many homeowners from rebuilding until then, state officials said this week. The wildfires rank as the deadliest series of fires in California history.

President Donald Trump approved Governor Jerry Brown’s requests for federal disaster relief. California’s Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris are backing legislation to get federal money out the door quicker to help with firefighting.