Authorities in Sonoma County advised prospective volunteers to check in online at http://tinyurl.com/RedCrossVolOctober2017 or www.online-redcross.org.

For more information about American Red Cross Gold Country Region visit http://www.redcross.org/local/california/gold-country online.



Four homes were destroyed in the Point Fire that ripped through West Point early Sunday and Monday in Calaveras County.

To the west in wine country, at least 15 people have died, more than 2,000 homes and businesses have burned and at least 25,000 people have evacuated from wind-driven fires since late Sunday. As many as 5,000 people are staying in temporary shelters.

Among the victims were two elderly residents found dead in a condominium in Napa County and law enforcement officials said Tuesday they fear there will be others.

Charles and Sara Rippey, 100 and 98, were found dead in the 100 block of Westgate Drive at the Silvarado Country Club. Officers found the couple Monday morning after receiving a call from a family member who feared for their safety.

Both people suffered from medical problems that made evacuation impossible, Napa County Sheriff John Robertson said following a press conference at the county command center Tuesday. Robertson declined to say what those medical issues were.

Mother Lode residents who want to help victims of this week’s destructive fires, including those who lost their homes and all their belongings, have options.

Some local churches, like St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on Bradford Street, will take up collections at a future service to help victims, Father James West said Tuesday. In the meantime, he plans to direct people to charities such as the American Red Cross.

Gold Country

The American Red Cross Gold Country Region has opened shelters in Calaveras, Butte, Yuba and Nevada counties. With the Point Fire estimated at 130 acres burned and 50 percent contained, shelters in Calaveras County were likely to be closed by Tuesday evening.

More than 130 people stayed inside and outside the Red Cross shelters in Butte and Yuba counties overnight Monday into Tuesday, said Stephen Walsh, communications director for

American Red Cross Gold Country Region.

The Salvation Army was helping provide food at shelters, Walsh said.

A shelter at Yuba Fairgrounds shelter was accepting small and large animals with volunteers on hand to help.

"We encourage everyone to make financial donations, because all of our shelter locations have enough food, water and other supplies,” Walsh said Tuesday.

Wine Country

In Sonoma and Napa counties, where hundreds of people are suddenly homeless, the Red Cross was in need of volunteers and offering training sessions Tuesday, Sonoma County sheriff’s staff said.

Volunteer trainings were held at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. at the the Doubletree Hotel in Rohnert Park.

City of Santa Rosa Fire Department staff also said the Red Cross needs volunteers as soon as possible to help fire evacuees at Elsie Allen High School and Cook Middle School.

“Both schools are opening as emergency shelter locations,” Santa Rosa Fire staff said in a social media post Tuesday. “Red Cross has exhausted their volunteer pool, and many additional hands are now needed during this emergency.”

Sonoma County sheriff’s staff estimated 25,000 people have evacuated from fires, and more than 4,900 were in shelters as of Tuesday morning.

“All evacuation areas are under a 24-hour curfew for your safety,” Sonoma County sheriff’s staff said in a social media post. “We're working hard to protect you and your property during this very difficult time. We appreciate your patience and will let you know when evacuation orders are lifted.”

Santa Rosa

More than 100 people were reported missing and at least nine victims were deceased in the Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa, a city of 175,000 residents, and in Sonoma County, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported Tuesday.

“Parts of our city have been devastated,” Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey told National Public Radio early Tuesday.

Coursey recounted howling winds that drove what had been brushfires into roaring wildfires on Sunday night.

When evacuation orders went out, “A lot of people had no time at all,” Coursey said. “It was, ‘Grab what you can and run.’ ”

Authorities said the Tubbs Fire started in Napa County late Sunday before spreading into Sonoma County during the night. Coursey told of its destructive path on NPR:

“It traveled 16 miles in an instant, it seemed like. It just came roaring over the hills, down through some dry brush. Hit one of our most expensive housing subdivisions in the hills, went through a commercial area, burned down a couple of hotels, a couple of nice restaurants, hopped over a six-lane freeway, roared through a K-Mart shopping center,and then into a middle-class section … it was indiscriminate, and it was very, very fast.”

Flames consumed the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country resort, a longtime tourist hub, as well as numerous other businesses, including wineries, the Fountaingrove Inn and a Kmart.

State and federal

At a briefing streamed live before noon Tuesday, state Office of Emergency Services, Cal Fire, California National Guard, Highway Patrol and FEMA leaders spoke in Mather outside Sacramento to reporters about statewide wildfires.

Ken Pimlott, director of Cal Fire, said three major fires in wine country, the Tubbs, Nunns and Atlas, were all zero percent contained. He said red flag conditions eased overnight and Tuesday but fire crews will not be allowed to let their guard down because forecasts for later this week show a return of critical fire weather conditions Wednesday and Thursday.

“We have more than 17 large fires in California burning more than 115,000 acres,” Pimlott said. “Two thousand structures, homes and businesses. Our focus is on life safety and getting people from out in front of these fires. We have people who are unaccounted for.

“This is pure devastation,” Pimlott said. “This could be days, it could be weeks for some people” before they are allowed back to homes and neighborhoods that have not been destroyed.

Asked how 18 fires sparked at once and if arson is considered a cause, Pimlott responded, “All of these fires are under investigation. We’re focused on putting the fires out. It’s unlikely lightning sparked any of these fires.”

Pimlott also said, “Fifty mile per hour winds after 10 o'clock at night mean any fire that starts has the chance to grow into a large fire. They all grew into major fires very quickly.”

Mark Ghilarducci, director of Cal OES, said Vice President Mike Pence visited the state operations center Tuesday to underscore White House approval earlier in the day for Gov. Jerry Brown’s request for a major disaster declaration.

“This will help us assist victims and communities as we work to rebuild damages that occurred,” Ghilarducci said. Ghilarducci said there were 28 shelters for evacuees in Sonoma and Napa counties, and some were in need of additional cots, blankets, water and food.

About 4,000 personnel are committed to various fires in Northern California, including fire, law enforcement, medical, volunteers and military, Ghilarducci said.

The California National Guard has more than 200 personnel in Sonoma and Napa counties, providing fuel to first responders and transportation support to local law enforcement who can’t get into damaged areas. David Baldwin with Cal National Guard said they are also helping set up phone centers at evacuation shelters and they might use a drone aircraft for fire mapping.

In Calaveras County, causes of the Point Fire in West Point and the Murphys Fire in the Murphys Grade area remained under investigation, Lindy Shoff with Cal Fire’s Tuolumne-Calaveras Unit said Tuesday. Ten engine crews and four hand crews remained assigned to the Point Fire. The Murphys Fire was contained at 33 acres and one engine crew remained on scene.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter @GuyMcCarthy.

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