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'I Just Want to Go Back to My Dirt'

Number missing in California's Camp Fire jumps dramatically
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 16, 2018 3:03 AM CST
Smoke hangs over the scorched remains of Old Town Plaza following the wildfire in Paradise, Calif.   (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)
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(Newser) – The list of people unaccounted for in the Camp Fire rose dramatically from 297 to 631 Thursday—and while many of them may be people who failed to contact loved ones after evacuating, authorities fear the death toll is also going to jump. "The level of chaos we were dealing with was extraordinary," says Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea, whose office released the list of names. Another seven bodies were found Thursday, bringing the death toll in California's deadliest-ever wildfire to 63, the Los Angeles Times reports. Authorities say the search for bodies in Paradise and other towns could take weeks. The fire is already the deadliest in the US since the Cloquet Fire hit Minnesota a century ago.

The fire is now 40% contained, but tens of thousand of evacuees don't know when it will be safe to return to what remains of their homes. Authorities say power lines are still down and firefighters are still putting out embers. "I just want to go home," Suzanne Kaksonen, an evacuee camping in a Walmart parking lot in Chico, tells the AP. "I don't even care if there's no home. I just want to go back to my dirt, you know, and put a trailer up and clean it up and get going," she says. "I don't want to wait six months. That petrifies me." The Sacramento Bee reports that President Trump is expected to visit the area Saturday to meet people impacted by the wildfires. (FEMA says Paradise will require a "total rebuild.")

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