An analysis by The New York Times of satellite images, combined with on-the-ground surveys, provides a more complete picture of the origin, spread and devastation of the fire that killed at least 23 people in and around the city.
The Tubbs fire destroyed at least 5,200 homes and structures, shown on the map below, making it the most destructive wildfire in state history, as well as one of the deadliest. The Times analysis also shows how quickly the fire spread in the crucial initial hours.
The fire was pushed downhill at unusually high speeds by winds that sometimes exceeded 50 miles per hour. Burning embers were blown ahead of the main front, leaping ahead and igniting new fires.
In about three hours, the fire reached Santa Rosa, causing a chaotic scramble among authorities and unprepared residents.
One resident said that by the time the first emergency alert came, the flames were already marching toward his house, leaving just minutes to escape. As their city became engulfed in flames, many residents frantically fled their homes. But some people were unable to escape, and in many cases, their remains have been recovered inside or near their homes.
Sources: California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection; Sonoma County Vegetation and Habitat Mapping Program (building footprints); U.S. Geological Survey (fire perimeter); Broadcastify; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere; Mark Finney, Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory, U.S. Forest Service; Neil Lareau, Department of Meteorology and Climate Science, San Jose State University; Scott Stephens, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, U.C. Berkeley; Daniel Swain, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, U.C.L.A.
By New York Times Staff Writers: Derek Watkins, Troy Griggs, Jasmine C. Lee, Haeyoun Park, Anjali Singhvi, Tim Wallace and Joe Ward.
Derek Watkins reported from Santa Rosa. Troy Griggs, Jasmine C. Lee, Haeyoun Park, Anjali Singhvi, Tim Wallace and Joe Ward reported from New York. Reporting was contributed by Susan C. Beachy and Richard Pérez-Peña from New York, Adam Nagourney from Los Angeles, and Carol Pogash from Santa Rosa.