SONOMA, Calif. (AP) — Animals from the Orange County Zoo are among evacuees returning home as crews get a handle on a Southern California wildfire that destroyed 14 buildings and damaged 22 others.
Evacuation orders were lifted Tuesday for thousands of people in Anaheim, Orange and Tustin. And more than 100 animals — including small birds, mammals and reptiles — were returned to the zoo within Irvine Regional Park, where flames roared on Monday.
Zoo officials tell the Orange County Register that the remaining animals including bears and mountain lions will be brought back in the coming days.
The newspaper says the zoo had undergone an emergency drill a week before the fire, which helped the evacuation run as smoothly as possible.
Cooler, more humid air is helping firefighters tame that blaze in northern Orange County.
A wildfire tearing through California’s wine country continues to expand unabated, prompting authorities to order more evacuations.
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday it ordered mandatory evacuations for several areas of Sonoma Valley after a blaze grew to 44 square miles.
After a day of cooler weather and calmer winds, officials say dangerous gusty winds will return to the region Wednesday afternoon, complicating firefighters’ efforts.
The blaze in Sonoma County is one of a series of fires that flared up north of San Francisco on Sunday night and continue to burn with little to no containment. Seventeen people have died in the blazes, 11 of them in Sonoma County.
The fires have also left at least 180 people injured and have destroyed more than 2,000 homes and businesses.
Jose Garnica worked for more than two decades to build up his dream home that was reduced to ashes in a matter of minutes by the deadly firestorm striking Northern California.
Garnica’s house was among more than 2,000 homes and business destroyed by the fires that have also killed 17 people.
He moved to the U.S. from Mexico more than 20 years ago, and after saving money from his steady job with a garbage company he fixed up his Santa Rosa house with new flooring and stainless steel appliances.
All of it burned early Monday when the fires broke out. But Garnica says he’s still better off than when he came to America.
The fires have scorched large sections of the state’s wine country.
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