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California fires: Crews gaining control; damage could top $3B

By Sara Shayanian
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California fires: Crews gaining control; damage could top $3B
Firefighters battle the Nuns Fire in Santa Rosa, Calif., on Saturday The wildfires in the region could cost more than $3 billion, officials said. Photo by Khaled Sayed/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 16 (UPI) -- Firefighters are making progress toward containing the worst of the wildfires in Northern California, after a devastating week that officials say has caused billions of dollars in damage.

The Atlas fire reached over 50,000 acres and was at 50 percent containment by late Sunday, and the Tubbs fire was 60 percent contained, fire officials said. The Pocket Fire was at 11,889 acres and 30 percent, and the Oakmont Fire was at 575 acres and 15 percent.

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Napa County Fire Chief Barry Biermann said the Atlas Fire area resembles a "moonscape," where the fires "burned everything."

The worst wildfires in California state history have led to at least 40 deaths since the flames started on Oct. 8. Officials said 174 people are still missing.

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Firefighters said they were able to get control of the Nuns fire, which received the bulk of the attention on Sunday.

"Things feel good in our gut as firefighters," Bret Gouvea, a Cal Fire deputy chief, said Sunday afternoon.

Officials have said the cost of fire-related damages could top $3 billion, but added that estimates are likely to grow by the end of this week. The wildfires have also impacted the region's lucrative $58 billion wine industry.

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Pacific Gas and Electric said it expects to restore power Monday to almost all customers in Napa and Sonoma Counties -- tens of thousands -- who are still without gas or power. About 21,000 remained in the dark late Sunday.

Evacuation orders have also been lifted over parts of Sonoma County, including all of Wikiup and the area north and east of Old Redwood Highway. A quarter of the 100,000 people who were ordered to evacuate are now allowed to return home.

Authorities said many areas, though, could remain uninhabitable for months due to dangerous or toxic conditions. Public health officials urged residents to call clean-up crews to help deal with ash and burned materials.

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