SANTA ROSA, Calif. (AP) -- 12:10 p.m.
The U.S. Housing and Urban Development agency announced Thursday it will speed federal disaster assistance to people affected by wildfires in Sonoma, Napa and other northern California counties.
The agency says it will grant a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures of Federal Housing Administration-backed mortgages, among other assistance. HUD says there are tens of thousands of FHA-insured homeowners affected by the fires.
HUD says it will also modify loans for borrowers having trouble making payments due to the wildfires.
Authorities say nearly 7,000 homes and structures were destroyed in Northern California's deadly wildfires, and the number is expected to increase.
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant said most destruction happened Oct. 8 and Oct. 9 when fires initially broke out in California's famed wine counties of Sonoma and Napa plus neighboring areas.
More than 15,000 people remained evacuated on Thursday as crews reported progress containing the fires.
A wildfire that broke out Sonoma County is now the third deadliest fire in state history. It killed 22 of the 42 people who have died in the California's October wildfires.
A 1993 Los Angeles fire that killed 29 people was the state's deadliest.
A 1991 fire in Oakland, California, killed 25 people and was the second deadliest.
A wildfire that broke out south of the fires burning Northern California's wine country has grown to more than 300 acres and the number of houses under threat has doubled to 300.
The fire burning in the Santa Cruz mountains started late Monday, sending smoke to the nearby college and beach town of Santa Cruz. It has destroyed four structures.
Seven firefighters have sustained minor injuries navigating rugged, steep terrain that has made ground fighting difficult. Two firefighters have minor burns, and one firefighter fractured his wrist after slipping down a steep ravine.
In Northern California, authorities say cooler temperatures and light rainfall expected Thursday will be a "welcome sight."
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant says fire crews should fully contain by Friday the wildfire that devastated Santa Rosa.
California Gov. Jerry Brown has issued an executive order aimed at cutting red tape and fast-tracking recovery efforts in counties affected by wildfires that have burned for more than a week.
The executive order announced late Wednesday allows disrupted wineries to relocate tasting rooms and suspends state fees for mobile home parks and manufactured homes.
The order extends the state's prohibition on price gouging during emergencies until April 2018 and expedites hiring of personnel for emergency and recovery operations.
Brown declared a state of emergency last week for affected counties and secured federal aid from the White House.
Authorities say cooler temperatures and light rainfall expected Thursday will be a "welcome sight."
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant also says fire crews should fully contain by Friday the wildfire that devastated Sonoma County and Santa Rosa.
Other large fires will take longer.
The wind-whipped fires that started Oct. 8 swept through parts of seven counties, becoming the deadliest and most destructive series of blazes in California history. At least 42 people were killed and thousands of homes were destroyed.
Cal Fire announced it had stopped the forward progress of those fires on Wednesday as tens of thousands of evacuees were let back into their neighborhoods.
Meanwhile, firefighters continue to battle a blaze further south in the Santa Cruz mountains that started Monday night.