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.

PAUL elias / As­so­ci­ated Press

Burned-out cars sit on the road­side Satur­day near Par­adise, Calif., where the bod­ies of at least five peo­ple were found.

Ringo H.W. chiu / As­so­ci­ated Press

The charred re­mains of a home Satur­day in Mal­ibu, Calif.

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