California residents ran for their lives after wildfires tore through neighborhoods

Families are returning to find nothing left but smoking rubble.
4:11 | 10/10/17

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Transcript for California residents ran for their lives after wildfires tore through neighborhoods
tonight, the devastation, it's apocalyptic here in this neighborhood. So many families here racing to get out. Some telling me about the gridlock, the cars backed up in the streets. But as that fire swept in, some of those cars catching fire, families inside them. Sheriff's deputies huddled with some families on dirt patches, surrounded on all sides by the flames. Tonight, the scope of the devastation here is overwhelming. This is dogwood drive in the coffee park neighborhood of Santa Rosa. The fires swept through here so quickly, families were jolted from their beds by the smell of thick smoke in the middle of the night. You can see just home after home incinerated by this fire. And the cars that just in an instand, you can see the melted aluminum. And this one right here, the windows are completely gone. The glass, if you come right over here, you can see the glass is just melted right over. And now sits on the seats of the car. Everywhere you look, signs of the heat, the intensity of this fire, the melted aluminum puddling under the car. One of the most stunning things in this neighborhood is, everywhere you look, the only thing you see left standing are the chimneys, in every direction. Just dozens of chimneys, nothing left of the homes. Everything has just been wiped out. And you can now hear the choppers flying above, though in the haze from the smoke, you can't even really see them. We walked through what once were front yards and back yards to so many families here, to make our way to this family. Sifting through what's left. Reporter: Was this your house? No, it's my son's. Reporter: The sign, bearing the family's name, the rinkers, still intact. What room are we standing in right now? This is kind of the dining room area. Shifting through with the pitch fork for any of great-grandma's stuff. Reporter: They were home when they started smelling that smoke at 1:30 in the morning. Brent left the house to drive around the neighborhood and he could see that wall of fire moving in and quickly. Came home and told my wife that we better pack up a few things just in case and 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. Reporter: His wife, a fifth grade teacher here, stepping into what was once that dining room. She takes off her mask and poi points to where the table once stood. This is where the cabinet was. Reporter: They describe the gridlock in the neighborhood, so many families trying to get out in the middle of the night. We got our dog, I made sure he had his bed and food and his supplies and put us in the car, we took off. Reporter: Not far from their home is where the Hilton once stood, and that's where we met the sheriff today. In your 21 years here, have you ever seen a wildfire come through town like this? No. This is unique. Reporter: The sheriff describing the line of cars trying to get out. Some of those cars on fire. They couldn't get out and the fire just burned around them and they sheltered in place. Reporter: They were surrounded by the fire? Yeah. They had a couple 100-yard patch of dirt and they were able to stay there. Reporter: While back at the rinkers house, telling us, they have no choice but to move forward. What are you thinking as you stand here in what was your house? Well, there's not much left, and I mean, we're just kind of at a -- wondering what happens next, but I guess we'll find out, as the process unfolds. Just unimaginable, woke up this morning and we had to face our new reality. Which is tough. There's been a lot of tears and now that we're actually in it, it's just like, okay, what do we do next? As she said, the new reality for so many families here. I told the sheriff late today we would put this number up on the screen. This is the number if you have found loved ones who were on that missing persons list. It's the emergency operations center, 707-565-3856. They do believe so many of those names are people who have not been able to be found by loved ones and families, so, we hope to get that list paired down here in Santa Rosa.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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