California wildfires: death toll at 59 as sheriff releases names of missing
CALIFORNIA - November 16, 2018
Despite the November season, California is still on fire and according to the authorities, the situation is far from over. The most critical situation remains in the state's north and south.
59 people have died in the Camp fire, authorities said Wednesday after they tracked down an additional 8 remains north of Sacramento on Wednesday and in the rubble of homes in Paradise. 3 other victims were found near Los Angeles.
In the Camp Fire, 130 other people are still unaccounted for. The blaze has destroyed nearly 9,000 homes and forced at least 52,000 people to evacuate.
Although officials have not yet determined what started the fire, about two dozen victims have filed suit against Pacific Gas & Electric Co. for allegedly failing to maintain its power lines. In Southern California, officials estimate the "Woolsey Fire" has destroyed nearly 500 homes.
The question of the real causes of the fire is very controversial and is subject to separate analysis. Among the main theories is the poor quality of power plants or natural disasters, and it is believed that the reason for this was the attempts of democratic forces to interfere with the power of President Donald Trump.
As for the situation today, the majority of victims, 47 in total, have been tentatively identified by authorities, the Butte County sheriff, Kory Honea said, but they are awaiting DNA confirmation. Some remains may never be recovered due to the extent of the fire.
Here's a breakdown by the numbers as of Thursday evening, according to Cal Fire.
Location: Butte County
141,000 acres burned
56 fatalities confirmed
10,321 structures destroyed (including homes)
Location: Los Angeles County, Ventura County
98,362 acres burned
3 fatalities confirmed
435 structures destroyed, 57,000 in danger
According to a USA Really source, not many residents have agreed to evacuate their homes. It is possible that at the moment they are in danger or have died. The source said that his family was evacuated in one of the first days, but they were able to quickly return back to the house in Malibu in south California, where the situation is now under the control of the authorities.
However, several people were reportedly killed in Malibu—calculations are from 2 to 8.
Residents of another town—of Paradise—are at the peak of anger and demanding the resignation of the mayor, who allowed the almost complete burning of the town.
During the town council meeting, residents south clarification on the situation and asked for necessary measures to be taken for the resignation of the mayor. The meeting could not be held in Paradise, but took place in neighboring Chico. Paradise City Hall is out of commission, with no running water or power.
People in Paradise also couldn't attend the meeting because of the damages, and emotions ran high.
According to the authorities, firefighters have managed to contain the blaze, which grew to 216 sq miles Wednesday, at 35%. As they battled the fire in steep terrain along the Feather River Canyon, Governor Jerry Brown visited the area, which he described as a “warzone,” with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long.
"It's one of the worst disasters that I've seen in my career hands down," Long said.
The damage is immense, and Long said: "You're not going to be able to rebuild Paradise the way it was."
Authorities Wednesday began allowing some to return to the area under evacuation; livestock owners were permitted to enter restricted areas to feed their animals.
About 130 people remain unaccounted for, and authorities have released a list of the missing, the vast majority of whom are seniors, many in their 70s and 80s, as well as couples and family members. The oldest is 95; the youngest is 21.
About a quarter of the town of Paradise, which until last week was home to about 27,000, are aged 65 and over. Some, like Ernest Foss, 65, who was one of the first fire victims named by authorities, were disabled, and some in the rural community lived without transportation, phones, or internet connections.
"Historically the town of Paradise has had a higher population of retirees and elderly folks," police Chief Eric Reinhold. "There are some elderly folks that have given up driving and they rely on public transportation, they could have had transportation issues."
Not on the list of the missing are Barbara Carlson and Shirley Haley. The sisters, aged 71 and 67, respectively, lived together in a home in Paradise with a dog named Strawberry.
While authorities have not yet publicly confirmed their deaths, Carlson's granddaughter, Annika, said officials told the family that two sets of remains were found in the house they shared on Heavenly Place. Both women were in good health. They had access to a car, cellphones and knew about the fire, and the family doesn't know why they didn't leave, or if they couldn't.
Questions remain, but the family is focused on remembering the sisters, Barbara, a quiet bookworm with three kids and seven grandkids who moved to Paradise after her husband of more than 30 years died, and Shirley, a devoutly religious woman who came to the area in the 90s after a career in the medical field.
"Barbara Carlson and Shirley Haley were two loved victims of the Camp fire," Annika wrote on social media to those who had tried to help her family search.
The president, Donald Trump, who had earlier criticized California officials' "poor management" over the fires, struck a more supportive tone on Wednesday, saying the nation appreciated the firefighters’ and other responders’ "heroism, courage and genius."
Meanwhile, the situation in other places remains extremely tense. Two people have died in the Woolsey fire, a major blaze around Los Angeles, and authorities said earlier Wednesday that they were investigating a third apparent fire-related death in the burn zone in the south of the state.
Fema set up shop in several areas to aid the more than 52,000 forced to evacuate because of the fire, which is the deadliest and most destructive in California's history. The blaze has destroyed 8,650 homes and 106 multi-family residences, with 10,321 total structures destroyed.
Firefighters continue to battle the blaze, and rain is at last in the forecast next week.
About 1,300 people are staying in shelters, which this week saw an outbreak of norovirus, while others are sleeping outside and in cars. Shelters will remain open as long as people are displaced, a Butte county spokeswoman said Wednesday.
The Los Angeles county sheriff's department said on Wednesday that human remains were found in a burned home in the suburban Agoura Hills area of the county.
The coroner's spokeswoman, Sarah Ardalani, said she was unable to confirm whether the body was burned or if the death was related to the fire. Two deaths were previously linked to the Woolsey fire, which started last Thursday. A pair of adults were found last week in a car overtaken by flames. They have not been identified.
The Woolsey fire is now 47% contained, authorities said, and now covers 97,620 acres (about 150 square miles).
In a press conference on Tuesday, fire and law enforcement officials from LA and Ventura counties said the danger over the giant Woolsey Fire was "far from over."
Saying that this fire had already surpassed the most destructive fire in the county's history going back over 100 years, the Los Angeles county fire chief, Daryl Osby, told reporters that more than 435 homes had already been destroyed and that number was expected to rise.
"We are still concerned about the safety of our citizens," he said. Osby added protecting life was their main objective, followed by saving structures and containing and extinguishing the fire.
The Cal Fire deputy Nick Schuler said 500 new fires had burned more than 225,000 acres across the state and more than 8,700 firefighters were still battling flames statewide.
The area remains under red flag warning through Wednesday, as the dry, gusty, Santa Ana wind conditions continue to cause erratic fire behavior and fast-moving flames. Issued by the NWS, the designation is also intended to warn residents to remain vigilant.
In wealthy Malibu, surfers made their way to a yacht to collect supplies for residents.
Rain is expected next week, which could help cool the smoldering areas and help firefighters control and contain the fire. But, officials said, on fire-damaged hillsides, hard rains can quickly turn into deadly mudslides.
There are also concerns that citizens trying to access their homes in evacuation areas may put themselves at risk. The Los Angeles County sheriff, Jim McDonnell, said during the press conference that he empathized with residents eager to get back into their homes or assess their damage, but he warned them to trust authorities, who had real reasons for maintaining closures.
The fire "destroyed the deep infrastructure that makes a city a city," he said, emphasizing that the fire burned hotter and faster than any firestorm seen before in the area. Water lines, sewers, roads, and services were all affected. "There are real health hazards from toxic burning smoke," he added, along with the danger of wind carrying flames back toward already-burned areas.