Some Northern California residents who fled their houses nearly two weeks ago as wildfires threatened started returning home Friday to see what is still standing.

The residents of three neighbourhoods in the hard-hit city of Santa Rosa were being allowed to see what remains of their houses. Many had fled in the middle of the night, and some trying to get out died.

Meanwhile, authorities increased their count of homes destroyed to 8,400 from fewer than 7,000 a day earlier as crews continued assessing fire damage.

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Search and rescue teams comb through the Coffey Park area in Santa Rosa, Calif., on Oct. 17. (Jim Christie/Reuters)

Daniel Berlant, a spokesperson with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said crews have almost finished their damage assessments.

“We’re getting back into the areas where homes are hard to access and hard to reach. That’s why these numbers are trickling in,” Berlant said.

The fires that broke out Oct. 8 north of San Francisco in California’s famed wine country and other nearby areas killed 42 people. One wildfire in Sonoma County killed 22 of them, making it the third deadliest fire in California’s history.

California’s insurance commissioner has said preliminary estimates of the wildfire losses exceed $1 billion US and that the figure is expected to rise.

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