Grim search for more fire victims; 31 dead across California

More than 8,000 firefighters battled wildfires that scorched at least 1,040 square kilometres

  • Nov. 12, 2018 11:30 a.m.
Jimmy Clements, who stayed at his home as the Camp Fire raged through Paradise, Calif., leans against his fence, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018. Clements, whose home stands among destroyed residences, said he built an FM radio out of a potato and wire to keep up with news about the fire. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Jimmy Clements, who stayed at his home as the Camp Fire raged through Paradise, Calif., leans against his fence, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018. Clements, whose home stands among destroyed residences, said he built an FM radio out of a potato and wire to keep up with news about the fire. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

The death toll from the wildfire that incinerated Paradise and surrounding areas climbed to 29 — matching the mark for the deadliest single blaze in California history.

Crews continued searching for bodies in the smouldering ruins, with nearly 230 people unaccounted for.

Statewide the number of dead stood at 31, including two victims in Southern California, from wildfires raging at both ends of the state.

Ten search teams were working in Paradise — a town of 27,000 that was engulfed by flames Thursday — and in surrounding communities in Northern California’s Sierra Nevada foothills. Authorities called in a DNA lab and anthropologists to help identify what in some cases were only bones or bone fragments.

All told, more than 8,000 firefighters battled wildfires that scorched at least 1,040 square kilometres of the state, with the flames feeding on dry brush and driven by winds that had a blowtorch effect.

“This is truly a tragedy that all Californians can understand and respond to,” Gov. Jerry Brown said Sunday. “It’s a time to pull together and work through these tragedies.”

VIDEO: Northern California wildfire nearly quadruples in size

California is requesting emergency aid from the Trump administration. President Donald Trump has blamed what he called poor forest management for the fires.

The governor said the federal and state governments must do more forest management but that climate change is the greater source of the problem.

“And those who deny that are definitely contributing to the tragedies that we’re now witnessing and will continue to witness in the coming years,” Brown said.

Drought and warmer weather attributed to climate change, and the building of homes deeper into forests have led to longer and more destructive wildfire seasons in California. While California officially emerged from a five-year drought last year, much of the northern two-thirds of the state is abnormally dry.

Celebrities whose coastal homes were damaged or destroyed or who were forced to flee expressed sympathy for the less famous and offered their gratitude to firefighters.

The magnitude of the devastation was beginning to set in even as the blaze raged on. Public safety officials toured the Paradise area to begin discussing the recovery. Much of what makes the city function was gone.

“Paradise was literally wiped off the map,” said Tim Aboudara, a fireighters union representative. He said at least 36 firefighters lost their own homes, most in the Paradise area.

Others continued the desperate search for friends or relatives, calling evacuation centres, hospitals, police and the coroner’s office.

The 29 dead in Northern California matched the deadliest single fire on record, a 1933 blaze in Griffith Park in Los Angeles. A series of wildfires in Northern California’s wine country last fall killed 44 people and destroyed more than 5,000 homes.

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

A vehicle drives through smoke from a wildfire near Pulga, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

A vehicle drives through smoke from a wildfire near Pulga, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Just Posted

A member of the Avalanche Canada South Rockies field team gathers important snowpack data that is used to produce daily avalanche forecasts for the region. Photo by Jennifer Coulter.
Warming temperatures increase avalanche risk heading into the weekend

Warm temperatures impact conditions, human behaviour

The Elk River Pedestrian Bridge in Sparwood could be at risk without mitigation works. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Sparwood secures grant funding for bridge repairs

The district has secured $703,000 in funding from UBCM

District of Sparwood gateway banner. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Sparwood starts to envision new multi-purpose facility for district

The district is exploring options for a new facility in the district following community consultation

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health reports 16 new COVID-19 cases

423 cases remain active in the region

(File Photo)
WATCH: Cranbrook RCMP looking for driver after near miss between SUV, school bus

(Video courtesy Cranbrook RCMP) Cranbrook RCMP are looking for the driver of… Continue reading

A vial of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a family doctor office, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 in Paris. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Christophe Ena
Trudeau ‘optimistic’ that timeline for rollout of COVID vaccines can be accelerated

Canada set to receive more than 6M COVID-19 vaccine dose than initially expected, by end of March

Beginning late Tuesday, anti-pipeline protesters blocked the intersection of Hastings Street and Clark Drive in Vancouver. (Instagram/Braidedwarriors)
Demonstrators block key access to Vancouver port over jail for pipeline protester

They group is protesting a 90-day jail sentence handed to a fellow anti-pipeline protester

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Langley RCMP will be collecting donations for the local food bank at the Willoughby Town Centre parking lot (20678 Willoughby Town Centre Drive near the Royal Bank) on Saturday Dec. 19 from noon till 4 p.m. (file)
Driver being arrested for alleged food order fraud rams Vancouver police with car

Two officers are in stable condition, suffering with soft tissue injuries following the incident

A discarded blue surgical mask is shown hanging in a bush in Montreal, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
B.C. RMT suspended for not wearing a mask after confirmed by undercover clients

College of Massage Therapists has 5 open files, said suspension necessary to protect public

A boat caught fire in Ladysmith Harbour on Saturday morning. (Photo submitted)
Missing woman’s remains recovered after Vancouver Island boat fire

Remains of a 60-year-old woman recovered after Feb. 27 boat fire took her life

Most Read