In some of the hardest-hit areas of northern California’s wine country, folks in survival mode have already turned their focus on the future. And in some places, people have stopped thinking of the fire as a threat entirely.
Mr. Pinto, of Sonoma County, wants to leave his home. But he decided to hold onto it, expecting to return with his wife and young children, who have been staying with relatives in Sonoma County, though the extent of the damage to his house is still unclear.
“I don’t need to go back, because it’s too hot,” he said. “It’s 30-degree weather, and everything’s ash, and I can’t walk over. So I don’t want to leave.”
A resident gets help on the road to his home in Magalia, California, as the Tubbs Fire burns south of his house. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
As of Sunday night, the power was out, he said, and water was only working for a few hours.
“If I decide to evacuate,” he said, “I’ll just hop in my car and go.”
On Tuesday, residents in Sonoma County were advised to evacuate before the Tubbs Fire merged with the Atlas Fire and could cause widespread devastation. But they were encouraged to wait, too, because conditions had improved somewhat.
Kyle Glass, a communications representative for Sonoma County, said a voluntary evacuation request was given earlier that day to residents of areas where the Tubbs Fire was quickly approaching. The Tubbs Fire has burned through tens of thousands of acres and become the third most destructive fire in California history, destroying hundreds of homes, leaving about 12,000 people homeless and taking two lives.
The fire burned with “intense rate and intensity” on Saturday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, according to Jeremy Thomas, an agency spokesman.
But on Sunday, the air was drier and some of the wind calmed down, so residents could return home, he said. It also was apparent that firefighters had made great progress fighting the Tubbs Fire, he said.
“Our evacuation is voluntary,” he said. “We are confident with this fire. The vegetation, we’re just not sure when that next round of heat will arrive.”
“We’re still prepared to evacuate again if the need arises,” he said.
Caitlin Marchetti, 23, of Guerneville, decided not to evacuate Saturday or Monday.
She and her boyfriend, Jamie Miller, 31, went to a supermarket on Sunday to see how gas stations would handle the logistics of transporting gas after the Tubbs Fire burned down some stations. The emergency gas sign near a Chevron gas station still read: “Due to extensive damage due to #shelter-in-place status please pull into only required drop off locations until resumption of services.”
Ms. Marchetti was unsure how the stations would work in the long term. But she said in the meantime, she was happy to be safe.
There is a “sunny spot” on her family’s property in Sonoma County, she said, in a reservoir where it’s cool. They are making plan to put on their clothes and cross their fingers that the emergency button will go off.
Of course, that small promise of safety and a taste of normalcy can’t keep everybody from wondering if things will get worse.
In Magalia, Ms. Corral, a resident, said she was worried about power outages and lost water, and about how the electrical and gas systems might work in the future.
“You ask me who owns this house?” she said, bemoaning what the destruction had meant to the property, which was on a flood plain. “It’s me, my husband and our kids. So for me, it’s about getting back to normal.”