Death toll rises to 40 as firefighters continue to battle massive California wildfires

Joseph Serna, Laura J. Nelson, Chris Megerian, Sonali Kohli – October 16, 2017

As the death toll rose to 40, firefighters struggled to get the upper hand against several massive wildfires that have ravaged Northern California for almost a week.

The winds that bedeviled firefighters Saturday are expected to die down Sunday, allowing firefighters to go back on the offense after a day of new evacuations. Cooler temperatures are also forecast. So evacuations in Napa city were lifted Sunday.

Officials said Sunday they are making good progress on the Tubbs and Atlas fires, which are both more than 50% contained. Firefighters will concentrate their forces on the Nuns fire, which is 30% contained.

At a Sunday afternoon briefing, Cal Fire Cmdr. Bret Gouvea told reporters that “overall things are feeling optimistic for us — we are very cautious about that.”

It was a different story Saturday, when strong winds kicked up overnight in the central Napa Valley region, causing some fires to spread and triggering evacuations in Sonoma and elsewhere, officials said.