Wildfires torch California
At least 23 dead, dozens missing in state’s north as community of 27,000 is wiped out
Associated Press PARADISE — The air thick with smoke from a ferocious wildfire that was still burning homes Saturday, residents who stayed behind to try to save their property or who managed to get back to their neighborhoods in this Northern California town found cars incinerated and homes reduced to rubble.
People surveyed the damage and struggled to cope with what they had lost. Entire neighborhoods were leveled and the business district was destroyed by a blaze that threatened to explode again with the same fury that largely incinerated the foothill town.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said Saturday 14 additional bodies were found, bringing the death toll to 23. The victims have not been identified.
The fire became California’s third deadliest since record-keeping began, with the death toll surpassing that from a blaze last year that ravaged the city of Santa Rosa.
An additional search and recovery team on top of the four already on the ground was being brought in to search for remains,
Honea said. An anthropology team from California State University, Chico was helping with that effort, he said.
The sheriff ’s office still has 110 outstanding reports of missing people, Honea said.
In some cases, investigators have only been able to recover bones and bone fragments, he said. He encouraged family members of the missing to submit DNA samples that could be compared with remains that are recovered.
“This weighs heavy on all of us,” he said. “Myself and especially those staff members who are out there doing what is important work but certainly difficult work.”
Honea added that he’s hopeful more of those missing people will be found. The department initially had more than 500 calls about citizens who were unable to reach loved ones. But they have been able to help locate many, he said.
The flames burned down more than 6,700 buildings, almost all of them homes, making it California’s most destructive wildfire since record-keeping began.
More firefighters headed to the area Saturday, with wind gusts of up to 50 mph expected, raising the risk of conditions similar to those when the fire started Thursday, said Alex Hoon with the National Weather Service.
The blaze grew to 164 square miles, but crews made gains and it was partially contained, officials said. It has cost $8.1 million to fight so far, said Steve Kaufmann, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
People sidestepped metal that melted off cars and Jet-skis and donned masks as they surveyed ravaged neighborhoods despite an evacuation order for all of Paradise, a town of 27,000 founded in the 1800s. Some cried when they saw nothing was left.
Abandoned, charred vehicles cluttered the main thoroughfare, evidence of the panicked evacuation as the wildfire tore through.
Two die in Southern Cal
two people were found dead and scores of houses, from ranch homes to celebrities’ mansions, burned in a pair of wildfires that stretched across more than 100 square miles of southern california, authorities said saturday.
the two bodies were found in Malibu, but Los Angeles county sheriff’s chief John Benedict offered no further details. they were discovered in the area of a winding stretch of Mulholland Highway with steep panoramic views, where on saturday the roadway was littered with rocks, a few large boulders and fallen power lines, some of them still on fire. Most of the surrounding structures were leveled.
Firefighters have saved thousands of homes despite working in extreme conditions “that they said they have never seen in their life,” LA county Fire chief daryl osby said.
Burned-out cars sit on the roadside Saturday near Paradise, Calif., where the bodies of at least five people were found.
The charred remains of a home Saturday in Malibu, Calif.