California makes progress in combating wildfires that have killed at least 40.

California Makes Progress in Combating Wildfires That Have Killed at Least 40

California Makes Progress in Combating Wildfires That Have Killed at Least 40

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Oct. 15 2017 1:55 PM

California Makes Progress in Combating Wildfires That Have Killed at Least 40

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Troops from three California National Guard companies search through a fire-devastated neighborhood on October 14, 2017 in Santa Rosa, California.

David McNew/Getty Images

Light winds and cooler temperatures are helping firefighters combat the wildfires on Sunday that have been raging for the past week across Northern California, killing at least 40 people and destroying thousands of structures. Thousands of more people were forced to evacuate on Saturday after shifting winds helped spread the 16 major wildfires that have wreaked havoc in the region while consuming nearly 214,000 acres.

The Tubbs Fire, which is considered to be one of the most intense over the past week, was 60 percent contained as of Sunday morning although it still threatens some towns. The Atlas Fire which has burned more than 51,000 acres, was 56 percent contained on Sunday morning.

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The ruins of houses destroyed by the Tubbs Fire are seen near Fountaingrove Parkway on October 14, 2017 in Santa Rosa, California.

David McNew/Getty Images

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“Conditions have drastically changed from just 24 hours ago, and that is definitely a very good sign. And it’s probably a sign we’ve turned a corner on these fires,” said Daniel Berlant, spokesman for California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The weather is likely to keep cooperating as winds from the southwest are expected to drag some much-needed cooler temperatures and moisture to the region. The wildfires that caught many residents across Northern California off guard have destroyed at least 5,700 homes and other structures while 75,000 people were still under evacuation orders.

The 40 confirmed deaths have officially made these the deadliest fires in California history. And the death toll is likely to rise considering many remain missing. Originally 224 were reported as missing in Napa County but 146 of them have been found safe and four were identified as dead, meaning 74 remain missing.  

In an editorial Sunday, the San Francisco Chronicle points out that President Donald Trump has stayed conspicuously silent on the fires that have devastated Northern California over the past week:

This is a president who views tweets as his primary means of connecting with the people, without the media filter he loathes. Dare we suggest that forcing NFL players to stand for the national anthem — to name one of his recent obsessions — is not a life-and-death situation. The fires are.
And how many times has Trump tweeted about the fires since they were whipped by winds into life-threatening force early Monday: zero.
So how can it be that the loss of 40 human beings on American soil did not merit a single tweet? The most forgiving interpretation would be that Trump, along with the cable networks that seem to attract his laser focus and have not made this a huge story, have a case of disaster fatigue. Perhaps the problem is that he hasn’t been blasted for his underwhelming response:There is no surer way to provoke him to his phone. The most cynical speculation would be that he could not care less about a state that despises him like no other.
Devastated California awaits your leadership, Mr. President. Tweet up, if you care.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.