Five Reported Missing In Huge California Wildfire

SUMMERVILLE, CA – AUGUST 07: Towels, pet food and personal belongings are piled on the top of a car at an evacuation center on August 7, 2021 in Summerville, California. According to reports, the Dixie Fire is now the Nations largest wildfire after burning 447,723 acres. Maranie R. Staab/Getty Images/AFP

 

US authorities said Saturday they were searching for five people missing as a huge wildfire raged in northern California, leaving two towns in little more than cinders.

The Dixie Fire, the largest active wildfire in the United States, recently became the third-largest in California history.

As of late Saturday it had destroyed 447,723 acres (180,782 hectares) in four counties, up from the previous day’s 434,813 and surpassing the vast Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon.

Dixie is now 21 percent contained, the CalFire website reported, adding that three firefighters had so far been injured fighting the blaze.

While the fire continued to grow, officials said Saturday that cooler, calmer weather was giving firefighters a much-needed break.

Those conditions are expected to continue into Sunday.

“We expect the same fire behavior as yesterday, which was fairly moderate,” Jake Cagle, a firefighter sections chief, said in a briefing Saturday.

Earlier, the Dixie Fire left the Gold Rush town of Greenville charred and in ruins, while also burning through the small town of Canyondam.

The Plumas County sheriff’s office said it had received descriptions of five people considered missing in Greenville and was searching for them.

Five other missing people were confirmed found on Saturday.

– Residents refuse to leave –

As authorities urge thousands of locals to evacuate, they have been met at times by armed residents refusing to budge, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

Law enforcement officers are asking any residents who stay for the names of next-of-kin — to be notified if the fire claims their lives.

The Dixie Fire’s movement northeastward has been slowed in part because it has reached the “scar” of an earlier blaze, the 2007 Moonlight Fire, reducing available fuel, CalFire said.

More than 5,000 personnel are now battling the Dixie blaze, which is sending enormous clouds of smoke into the air that are easily visible from space.

READ ALSO: Hundreds Flee, Homes Destroyed As Forest Fires Ravage Greek Island

A preliminary investigation has suggested the fire was started when a tree fell on a power cable owned by regional utility Pacific Gas & Company (PG&E), a private operator that was earlier blamed for the huge Camp Fire in 2018, which killed 86 people.

By late July, the number of acres burned in California was up more than 250 percent from 2020 — itself the worst year of wildfires in the state’s modern history.

A long-term drought that scientists say is driven by climate change has left much of the western United States parched — and vulnerable to explosive and highly destructive fires.

AFP

California Wildfire Death Toll Rises To 81

A California Fire firefighter pulls a hose towards a burning home as the Camp Fire moves through the area on November 9, 2018 in Magalia, California.  PHOTO: JUSTIN SULLIVAN / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

The death toll from the devastating wildfire in northern California rose to 81 Tuesday with the discovery of two more sets of remains, officials said.

The number of people listed as unaccounted for in the deadliest and most destructive fire in state history jumped up by nearly 200 to 870.

This number has been fluctuating a lot in recent days amid the confusion of the search for bodies in the town of Paradise, which was largely destroyed by the flames.

The figure peaked Saturday at 1,276, and on Monday was down to 699.

Now the number has gone back up after police worked through a backlog of voice calls, Butte County sheriff Kory Honea said.

Another three people died in a second major blaze that struck Malibu in southern California.

In the north, the so-called Camp Fire has scored 152,000 acres of land and destroyed more than 12,600 homes. It started on November 8 and is only now 75 percent contained.

And officials are now bracing for significant rain on Wednesday and perhaps later in the week, which will help put out the fire but could bring flash floods, turning ash and soot into a thick paste and possibly washing away human remains.

“It is the potential of dealing with one disaster and having, you know, something else pile on top of us,” Honea said.

AFP

Deadliest Fire In California History Kills 42 People

Yuba and Butte County Sheriff officers discover bone fragments inside a burned vehicle in Concow, California on November 11, 2018 after the Campfire ripped through the area. PHOTO: Josh Edelson / AFP

The death toll from a huge blaze in northern California rose to 42 on Monday, making it the deadliest wildfire in state history.

Thousands of firefighters spent a fifth day digging battle lines to contain the “Camp Fire” in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains north of Sacramento, while search teams were on a grim mission to recover the dead.

“As of today, an additional 13 human remains have been recovered, which brings the total number to 42,” Sheriff Kory Honea told a news conference.

The blaze is “the deadliest wildland fire in California history,” Honea said.

Although it is difficult to be certain due to inconsistencies in record keeping and categorization, the Camp Fire appears to deadliest American wildfire in a century — since the Cloquet Fire killed an estimated 1,000 people in Minnesota in 1918.

The Camp Fire is the largest of several infernos that have sent a quarter of a million people fleeing their homes across the tinder-dry state, with winds of up to 60 miles (100 kilometers) per hour fanning the fast-moving flames.

In addition to the historic loss of life, the Camp Fire blaze is also more destructive than any other on record, having razed 6,500 homes in the town of Paradise, effectively wiping it off the map.

More than 5,100 firefighters from as far as the states of Washington and Texas have been working to halt the advance of the inferno as “mass casualty” search teams backed by anthropologists and a DNA lab pick through the charred ruins to identify remains — sometimes reduced to no more than shards of bone.

“We’re now at a point where we’re going to bring in human remains detector dogs, or what often are referred to as cadaver dogs,” Honea said Monday.

At least 44 people have died in fire zones in north and south California, where acrid smoke has blanketed the sky for miles, the sun barely visible.

US President Donald Trump “declared that a major disaster exists in the state of California and ordered federal aid to supplement state, tribal, and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by wildfires,” the White House said in a statement.

The move makes aid available to the state’s fire-hit Butte, Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

On the ground, cars caught in the flames have been reduced to scorched metal skeletons, while piles of debris smolder where houses once stood, an occasional brick wall or chimney remaining.

Glenn Simmons, 64, told AFP in the nearby town of Chico that he had been sleeping in his car since Thursday, unable to find a space in a shelter.

“I was planning on maybe moving out of state, or into southern California… Everything is burned up. I have my clothes and I have a backpack, and that’s pretty much it,” he said.

The Camp Fire has reduced around 17 square miles (45 square kilometers) of Butte County’s forested hills mostly to charred wasteland — an area which hasn’t seen rainfall of more than half an inch (one centimeter) in more than 30 weeks.

It is currently 25 percent contained, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said.

Three firefighters have been injured in the effort to quell the blaze’s advance.

At the southern end of the state, another three firefighters have been injured battling the Woolsey Fire, which has devoured mansions and mobile homes alike in the coastal celebrity resort of Malibu.

The blaze is similar in size to the Camp Fire but has been much less destructive, and the death toll has been limited to two victims found in a vehicle on a private driveway.

 ‘The new abnormal’

While some Malibu-area residents were allowed to return home late Sunday, the city of Calabasas, just northeast of coastal Malibu, came under evacuation orders.

“This is not the new normal, this is the new abnormal. And this new abnormal will continue, certainly in the next 10 to 15 to 20 years,” California Governor Jerry Brown said Sunday in a stark warning over the likely damaging effects of climate change.

“Unfortunately, the best science is telling us that the dryness, warmth, drought, all those things, they’re going to intensify.”

Over the weekend, the Woolsey Fire engulfed parts of Thousand Oaks, where the community is still shell-shocked after a Marine Corps veteran shot dead 12 people in a country music bar on Wednesday.

The blaze has consumed around 93,000 acres (37,600 hectares), destroyed an estimated 370 structures and was 30 percent contained, according to Cal Fire.

Singer Miley Cyrus’s home was one of the buildings destroyed in southern California.

“Completely devastated (sic) by the fires affecting my community. I am one of the lucky ones. My animals and LOVE OF MY LIFE made it out safely & that’s all that matters right now,” she tweeted.

“My house no longer stands but the memories shared with family & friends stand strong.”

Many of the affected area’s residents own horses, and Twitter has been flooded with messages from people seeking and offering help.

Actor James Woods, a rare political conservative in liberal Hollywood, has made new friends by using his Twitter account to help find missing people and getting help for pets, including horses.

The Ventura County Humane Society said it was “deeply humbled” by a $100,000 donation from actress Sandra Bullock and her family to rescue and care for animals evacuated from the fires.

AFP

California Wildfires: Ferocious Fires Evict Thousands

fireAn evacuation order has been issued for an area home to more than 82,000 people in Southern California after a huge inferno broke out in a drought-ravaged mountain pass on Tuesday.

A day after its ignition in the mountains, the fire, which has been described by some as the most ferocious wildfire they have ever seen, had spread across nearly 47 square miles.

Officials say the flames have advanced and is out of control, despite the efforts of 1,300 firefighters.

“There will be a lot of families that come home to nothing,” San Bernardino County Fire Chief, Mark Hartwig told BBC.

“It hit hard. It hit fast. It hit with an intensity that we hadn’t seen before,” he added.

According to Reuters, two firefighters were trapped by flames in the effort to evacuate residents and defend homes, but managed to escape with only minor injuries.

Authorities have been unable to say how many homes have been destroyed, but some fear it will be in the hundreds.

Investigations are still ongoing on the cause of the fire, as it has destroyed homes and disrupted transport links between California and Nevada.