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Tough Housing Market Awaits Wine Country Wildfire Victims

PETALUMA (AP) — As firefighters gain on wildfires burning in Northern California's wine country, the many thousands who lost their houses, condos and apartments in those fires will have to find a new place to live in one of the toughest housing markets in the nation.

In San Francisco, an average one-bedroom apartment rents for more than $3,000 a month and the median home price is about $1.5 million. The climbing cost of living has reached the greater San Francisco Bay Area, which includes parts of the fire areas.

The fires that swept through parts of seven counties were the deadliest and most destructive series of blazes in in California history. At least 42 people were killed and 6,000 homes destroyed.

Crews made excellent progress Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, setting off controlled burns to deprive wildfires of added fuel, said Daniel Berlant, spokesman for California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, also known as Cal Fire. He said cooler weather and the lack of wind helped.

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"We're hoping that Mother Nature will continue to cooperate with us," he said. "Increased moisture in the air and potential rainfall, all of those are welcome signs."

Also on Wednesday, Sonoma County increased its death count from 22 to 23 when officials reported they had found another body in Santa Rosa. Officials released no details.

Keeping positive is hard when facing the reality of starting from scratch, said John De Groot, whose home in Santa Rosa burned down along with a lifetime of memories.

"We've worked our whole lives," De Groot said. "We've had this house for 23 years. So there are a lot of memories there. Grandkids have been there. They love it. And it's not there. So now what?"

California, which was grappling with a housing shortage before the wildfires broke out, is faced with a massive logistical issue with entire neighborhoods destroyed and so many seeking to rebuild.

"This is a tremendous event for an urban area," Brock Long, an administrator with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Tuesday. "We've got a lot of thinking to do about how you mitigate this from happening in communities down the road and becoming more resilient."

An estimated 100,000 people were evacuated at the height of the fires, and about 34,000 remain under evacuation. Many have yet to find out if their homes are still standing.

© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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