Death toll from California wildfires rises to 59; crews gain control

Photo: Gephardt Daily

Nov. 15 (UPI) — The death toll rose to 59 Wednesday as rescuers combed through the charred remnants in northern and southern California, finding nine additional bodies.

In the Camp Fire in Northern California, already the deadliest fire in the state’s history, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea reported Wednesday night that eight additional bodies were found in the past day, all in Paradise. That brings the death toll to 56 in Camp Fire with another three killed in southern California’s Woolsey Fire, including one more Wednesday.

Officials called in 100 National Guard troops to search burned out buildings and cars for human remains. The goal is to find the remains before allowing residents to return, but that may not always be the case.

Altogether, more than 237,893 acres have burned in three fires, destroying more than 8,300 structures since last week. Firefighters got a brief respite as they gained the upper hand on the wind-blown fires Wednesday. The Woolsey Fire in Southern California is 47 percent contained. The Camp Fire, which has burned 135,000 acres, is 35 percent contained.

Butte County Sheriff’s Office published a list of more than 100 people who are missing after the Camp Fire sparked Thursday.

“We’re going to do everything we possibly can to search for remains,” Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said.

The fire has destroyed 7,600 homes and 260 commercial structures, and 15,500 structures were threatened, Cal Fire reported Wednesday.

“The entire community of Paradise is a toxic wasteland right now,” Paradise City Council member Melissa Schuster told ABC News.

Visibility improved Tuesday, allowing fixed-wing aircraft to dump retardant in the Bloomer Mountain area.

It’s been 212 days since the Butte County area has gotten any rain so the dry conditions could cause the fire to spark again. There is no rain in the forecast for the next week.

All the evacuated homes make a prime target for thieves and looters. Butte County sheriff’s deputies arrested six people, many of whom broke into homes.

“Needless to say I’ve warned people,” Honea said. “If you’re in these evacuated areas when you shouldn’t be and you’re violating the law and taking advantage of these citizens who are displaced, we are going to stop you.”

The Woolsey Fire flared up in the Lake Sherwood and Hidden Valley areas of Ventura County. It’s burned more than 97,000 acres, and destroyed 485 buildings, according to Cal Fire. A total 57,000 structures were threatened.

“We are not out of the woods yet. We still have tough conditions,” Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said.

The latest victim was located inside a burned home in Agoura Hills, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

The Hill Fire was 94 percent contained after burning more than 4,500 acres in Ventura County, Cal Fire said.

Two new fires were found Tuesday near the Los Angeles-Ventura County border, but they were extinguished quickly with a mix of ground and air attacks.


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