California fires: 88 still missing

By Sara Shayanian  |  Updated Oct. 17, 2017 at 5:54 PM
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Oct. 17 (UPI) -- The death toll from the Northern California wildfires climbed to 41 after a firefighter died in a car crash while delivering water, state authorities said.

The firefighter was delivering water to help battle the Nuns Fire, which is 53 percent contained, when officials said the truck rolled over.

"He was helping to fight the fires and do the right thing," California Highway Patrol Cpt. Mike Palacio said. "We don't know what happened."

Fire officials said they were optimistic about their progress after a weeklong battle with California's deadliest wildfires. Officials said lighter winds have helped, and rain expected this week will help even more.

"The conditions have been pretty favorable, the winds have been less than expected," Sonoma County Sheriff's Deputy Brandon Jones said. "Sunday night was the 'second night in the row where we had some reasonably decent production.'"

Fire officials said the Atlas and Tubbs fires, two of the main blazes, were more than 70 percent contained.

Firefighters began to use proactive strategies, like using bulldozers to dig trenches, to keep the blazes from spreading.

Authorities said 88 people remain missing and roughly 40,000 haven't yet returned to their homes.

Though some evacuations have been lifted -- like in Mendocino County where 8,000 people were allowed to return home Monday -- authorities warn there's still some danger.

Authorities said all told, the wildfires have scorched more than 200,000 acres -- including parts of the region's lucrative wine country.

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