By Sarah Gray
October 16, 2017

Officials were cautiously optimistic on Sunday about progress being made in the battle against wildfires in Northern California. The fires have killed at least 40 people, destroyed around 5,700 structures, and burned 217,000 acres. Dozens of people have been reported missing.

“Initial damage assessments for unincorporated Sonoma Co[unty] are in: 3,819 destroyed parcels, $2.019 billion,” State Senator Mike McGuire tweeted Sunday evening. “When Santa Rosa is combined, damage estimates top $3 billion. Unfortunately, estimates are expected to grow this week.”

Weather conditions on Sunday, including diminished winds, meant firefighters could better work to contain the blazes. Here’s a status update for the three largest fires, according to CNN:

—The Atlas fire is an estimated 65% contained

—The Tubbs fire is an estimated 60% contained

—The Nuns fired is an estimated 40% contained

Bret Gouvea, the deputy chief of Cal Fire, held a briefing on Sunday, saying that “things are feeling optimistic for us.”

“We’re very cautious about that,” Gouvea said. “As you know, we have a lot of fires across Sonoma County.”

Gouvea also thanked firefighters. “It’s been a long road,” he said to firefighters gathered at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. “You couldn’t do any more for us, and I sincerely appreciate the effort. We are going to get this done, very shortly.”

Though officials warned that the fires could still be unpredictable, weather conditions could improve in the next week and even include a chance of rain.

Charles Bell, a National Weather Service meteorologist, told the Los Angeles Times that cooler temperatures and moisture could be in the upcoming forecast. “There is a 70 percent chance of rain forecast for Santa Rosa on Thursday evening, with relative humidity in the area expected to increase to more than 90 percent ahead of the rain system,” Bell told the Times.

Some evacuees were allowed to return to their homes on Sunday, while other evacuation warnings remain in place.

For those returning home, many are returning to damaged or destroyed property. Officials are warning against trying to sift through their belongings or move debris due to toxicity.

“The ash and the debris is very toxic,” Dr. Karen Relucio, a public health officer in Napa County, told CNN. “You have lots of chemicals and plastic and paint burned down.”

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