Death Toll Climbing, California Keeps Burning

Hundreds are still unaccounted for in Camp Fire, now state's deadliest wildfire by far
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 13, 2018 5:05 AM CST
Updated Nov 13, 2018 7:03 AM CST
Camp Fire Now Deadliest in California History
Fireplaces stand amid destroyed residences following the Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif., on Monday, Nov. 12, 2018.   (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

(Newser) – The Camp Fire raging in northern California is now the deadliest single wildfire in state history—and authorities expect the death toll to rise significantly. Another 13 victims were found Monday, 10 of them in the devastated Butte County town of Paradise, bringing the death toll to 42, the Sacramento Bee reports. The previous record was held by the Griffiths Park Fire, which killed 29 people in 1933. Only four of the victims have been identified, says Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea. With many of the bodies reduced to little more than ash, special forensics teams have been brought in to recover and identify remains. Some 228 people are unaccounted for, many of them seniors with mobility issues. More:

  • A grim search. The AP reports that two mobile morgue units have been brought to the area and chaplains are accompanying coroner search teams visiting the addresses of people reported missing. Searchers are paying extra attention to residences that still have one or more vehicles in the driveway.

  • Widespread destruction. The fire is also the most destructive on record in California, with 7,177 structures destroyed and more than 15,000 others threatened, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Authorities said Monday evening that it was 30% contained after burning 117,000 acres.
  • Firefighters lose homes. Officials say at least 38 firefighters and 17 police officers lost their homes as they fought to protect Paradise, the Guardian reports. Tim Aboudara, spokesman for the International Association of Fire Fighters, says firefighters are devastated they were unable to stop the fire engulfing the town. "Our job is to put the fire out and we couldn’t stop that," he says. "There was nothing we could do."
  • Utilities under pressure. The AP reports that shares in Pacific Gas & Electric Co. have lost around a third of their value since the Camp Fire broke out. A woman says the utility requested access to her property before the fire started because its power lines were causing sparks. Southern California Edison, meanwhile, has seen its share price fall 20% amid reports that its equipment have contributed to the Woolsey Fire at the other end of the state.

  • Trump declares major disaster. "I just approved an expedited request for a Major Disaster Declaration for the State of California," President Trump tweeted Monday. "Wanted to respond quickly in order to alleviate some of the incredible suffering going on."
  • Woolsey Fire. The Woolsey Fire north of Los Angeles has killed at least two people and burned more than 91,000 acres. Celebrities including Miley Cyrus, Neil Young, and Gerard Butler are among those whose homes were destroyed in the Malibu area, Variety reports. The Hill Fire is also burning in Ventura County.
  • Mountain lions survived. In brighter news, officials say tracking collars show eight mountain lions survived the fire in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, the Los Angeles Times reports. They are still trying to determine the fate of five others.
  • How to help. The San Diego Union-Tribune lists ways to help people—and animals—affected by the wave of wildfires.
(In Paradise, a garbage collector rescued a 93-year-old woman.)

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