Santa Rosa Fire Chief Tony Gossner said this afternoon 42,000 people have been “repopulated” to their homes in areas formerly evacuated because of the Tubbs Fire.
Traffic congestion during the repopulation, however, was “severe,” Gossner said.
Santa Rosa police Chief Hank Schreeder said returning residents to their homes that are still standing “is a process that we have to follow” because there are still searches for missing and unaccounted people.
Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey said the city is “at a place where we are talking about recovery,” and there is much anxiety among people who can’t return home.
Coursey said repopulation differs from re-entry to formerly evacuated areas where homes have burned.
The mayor said there are health, safety and financial issues regarding the cleanup, and there will be community meetings in the coming weeks before re-entry begins.
The death toll from the fires in Sonoma County reached 23 when a man was found dead in the Fountaingrove area Tuesday. The overall death toll from the fires in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Yuba counties is 42.
Two more of the victims who died in Sonoma County were identified today as Monte Neil Kirven, 81, and Marilyn Carol Ress, 71.
Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano said there are 250 search and rescue crews still in the area, and said that he viewed the fire devastation during a flyover recently and thinks it will take months and years for the county to recover.
Fifty people are still missing, 25 in Santa Rosa and 25 in unincorporated Sonoma County, Giordano said.
California Highway Patrol Officer Jon Sloat said the Mendocino Avenue off-ramp on northbound U.S. Highway 101 and the Hopper Avenue off-ramp on southbound Highway 101 are closed.
Cal Fire officials said the forward progress of the fires has been stopped, and there is a line around all of the fires.