Sonoma County officials said Saturday that it would take at least months and most likely years to fully recover from devastating wildfires that ripped through Northern California this month, destroying at least 8,900 structures and killing 42 people.
“We don’t control these things, and it makes you realize how small you are in the world when something like this happens,” Sheriff Rob Giordano said during a memorial ceremony honoring those who died. “I don’t think we understand the level at which it is going to impact lives, and the community will be different.”
The memorial service came nearly three weeks after the fires erupted October 8. Overall, they forced about 100,000 people to evacuate.
U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and five members of Congress attended the service in Santa Rosa, one of the hardest-hit cities, as part of a day of touring the devastated areas and meeting with elected officials.
“I can’t think of anything that surpasses the opportunity to be with all of you today,” Pelosi said before presenting a flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol to commemorate the fire victims.
Pelosi was joined by U.S. Representative Mike Thompson, who represents the city of Santa Rosa, and Representatives Jared Huffman, Anna Eshoo, Zoe Lofgren and Mark DeSaulnier.
The group toured a destroyed health center and met with county and federal officials to ask how Congress could help. Local officials urged them to cut red tape that makes it harder to get temporary housing and other needed resources for people who lost their homes.
Officials have estimated that losses will top $1 billion, but they haven’t provided a hard number.
Cleanup could last into early 2018, preventing many homeowners from rebuilding until then, state officials said this week.
The wildfires rank as the deadliest series of fires in California history.
President Donald Trump approved Governor Jerry Brown’s requests for federal disaster relief. California’s Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris are backing legislation to get federal money out the door quicker to help with firefighting.
Harris, Feinstein and Brown visited the fire zone two weeks ago.