SONOMA, Calif. (KTVU) - In Sonoma County, hardest hit by wildfires, a community meeting held Thursday afternoon signified the ongoing transition from outright emergency to the recovery phase. With some roads still closed and some neighborhoods still off limits, officials answer many questions county residents put forward.
About 200 people showed up at the Sonoma Veterans Memorial Building to get the latest, ask their questions, and collect necessary forms to begin their recoveries. With Sonoma County fires now 80% contained, officials expressed concern about when everyone can go home.
"We had a close call with a 16-foot-wide tree that almost struck to firefighter yesterday. So, these are the situations where we do not want to allow the public back into these dangerous areas," said Jonathan Cox, a Cal Fire Spokesman.
“I know that this is a frustrating experience. I know you're not getting the answers you need to get back to your homes if you are in an evacuation area. All I ask is that you just dig down deep to that last bit of patience you have," said Bret Sachett, Sonoma Police Chief.
"Our officers are showing a great amount of empathy to the people we serve. I'm really proud of the women and men that do that every day. And we would love nothing more than to get our officers off post and back on patrol when that's out critical mission and our primary mission," said Chris Childs of the California Highway Patrol.
Residents found the meeting very useful, and the help they got filling out forms invaluable. "I believe it's been helpful, sure. People want to know what's been going, particularly if they're no in the thick of it. If they are in the thick of it, they don't know what's going on around them," said Sonoma County Resident Bob Piazza.
The California Office of Emergency Services made a headline when it announced it would clean up the thousands of lots where homes burned to the ground provided homeowners issue written permission. Then government contractors can clean up quickly and completely since privately hired contractors will be few and far between.
"So, once we have authorization from the residents, we'll be able to mobilize our state and Federal forces to come in and begin that process of returning a safe, clean sight back to to them for that critical rebuilding and recovery," said Eric Lamouruex of the California Office of Emergency Services.
Today, the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development announced it will impose a three-month moratorium on foreclosures on FHA insured homes, assist in forbearance and loan modifications, make several type of mortgage insurance available and try to assist those who lost homes and apartments to find alternative housing.