Couple returns to home in ruins after wildfires: 'There's been a lot of tears'

PHOTO: Brent and Janelle Rinker speak to ABC News David Muir after their home was destroyed by wildfires that decimated the Coffee Park neighborhood in Santa Rose, California.PlayABC News
WATCH Residents return to their homes in Santa Rosa, California

In the Coffey Park neighborhood of Santa Rosa, California, the Rinkers were asleep in their home when the smoke woke up Brent Rinker around 1:30 a.m. Monday.

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He told ABC News' David Muir on Tuesday that he opened the door to smoke and ash and jumped in his car. As he drove around the block, Brent Rinker said, he came across another resident who warned him that a fire was quickly approaching.

Brent Rinker said he went home and woke up his wife, Janelle Rinker. She said she took pictures of the rooms, grabbed their dog, his bed and food; and tossed the packed suitcase in the car.

"We packed some stuff up, went and put it in the car and when we came out to the car, the whole sky was red," Brent Rinker said.

Thousands flee as wildfires ravage Northern California; at least 15 killed

'The neighborhood is gone,' Santa Rosa resident says after wildfire destroyed his home

Before and after photos of neighborhood destroyed by wildfire in Santa Rosa, California

At least 23 people have died as a result of wildfires across the state, authorities said Wednesday. Massive wildfires sweeping through parts of California have damaged more than 3,500 residences and other buildings, according to authorities. In the Santa Rosa area, over 27,000 acres have burned.

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Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano said that in his 21 years with the county, he'd never seen a wildfire come through town like this. He said as residents were evacuating, some of their cars had even caught fire as they traveled down roads.

"There was fire everywhere," he said.

Giordano said that at least nine had been confirmed in the county.

"[It is an] absolutely horrific fire, really took over everything in this area especially," Giordano told Muir on Tuesday. "We don't know the extent of the devastation right now because we can't get in. These are active fires. This is not over. It is not contained. We are still evacuating people today. ... The reality is, this fire is still very active."

As the Rinkers sifted through the ashes, mud and glass of their home Tuesday, hoping to salvage valuables, the couple said they had no choice but to move forward.

"It's just unimaginable but we work up this morning and we had to face our new reality, which is tough. There's been a lot of tears ... When you're in that moment ... You're just trying to survive," Janelle Rinker said.

ABC News' Christine Romo contributed to this story.

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