Paradise Cop: 'There's No One to Watch Over and Protect'

Camp Fire death toll hits 56
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 15, 2018 7:10 AM CST
Death Tolls Hits 56 in Camp Fire
A sign hangs beside a tent at a makeshift shelter for evacuees of the Camp Fire in Chico, Calif., on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018.   (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

(Newser) – The death toll from the Camp Fire now stands at 56—almost double that of the state's previous deadliest single wildfire—and close to 300 others are unaccounted for, according to the Butte County Sheriff's Office. The sheriff's office released a list of 297 names Wednesday night, including many elderly people. FEMA administrator Brock Long toured the devastated town of Paradise Wednesday and said the agency would be dealing with the disaster for years and it's not clear whether the town will be rebuilt, NBC reports. "The infrastructure is basically a total rebuild at this point," he said. "You're not going to be able to rebuild Paradise the way it was," he said of the town, which had a population of 27,000 before the wildfire. In other developments:

  • A united front. California Gov. Jerry Brown and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke stressed unity after touring the fire-ravaged area, Politico reports. Brown didn't directly address questions about reports that a state utility's equipment started the fire—or about President Trump's remarks blaming the state. "It's not one thing: It's people, it's how people live, it's where they live, it's the changing climate," Brown said.

  • Search for bodies continues. Butte County Sheriff Kony Honea said nearly 300 additional people have been brought in to search for bodies, bringing the total to more than 450, including National Guard troops, the AP reports. Some 22 cadaver dogs are assisting the search.
  • New role for Paradise police. The San Francisco Chronicle looks at the new reality the Paradise police department is facing. All 21 officers are still reporting to work, even though eight of the 10 officers who lived in town lost their homes. They have found themselves patrolling a "ghost town" they barely recognize. "What we're doing is important, but it's not what we would normally be doing," Sgt. Robert Pickering says. "We're just kinda bearing witness. There's really no one to watch over and protect."
  • Finding the cause. The New York Times looks at the painstaking process of determining the cause of the Camp Fire. Shares in Pacific Gas and Electric have already plummeted amid fears the company's equipment was to blame.

  • Third death confirmed in Woolsey fire. At the other end of California, authorities have confirmed a third death in the Woolsey fire, which has destroyed more than 500 structures and is now slightly over 50% contained, the Los Angeles Times reports. A cadaver dog found the body of a 70-year-old man in the ruins of an Agoura Hills home.
  • From bad to worse for evacuees. The Sacramento Bee reports that around 20 people have become ill with norovirus at the Neighborhood Church of Chico, one of many places hosting Camp Fire evacuees, and more cases are suspected at a second shelter.
  • An unusual survivor. The New York Times found an unusual survivor in the driveway of a destroyed home in Paradise: An almost untouched 1916 Model T Ford, still on a trailer. Owner Ron Westbrook, 74, says they only had a few minutes to flee and decided not to take the antique car. "I thought, 'You know what, it’s stupid to risk a life for a Model T when there's so many people trying to evacuate," he says.
(Read more California wildfires stories.)

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