The deadliest wildfire in California has brought about a death toll of 48 and counting with at least 228 people missing. Investigators have since recovers six more bodies in the devastated town of Paradise which is located in Northern part of the Golden State. The latest tally of casualties from the blaze, dubbed the Camp Fire, was announced by Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea as forensic teams combed through a ghostly landscape strewn with ash and charred debris in Paradise, once home to 27,000 people.
The town, about 280 kilometres north of San Francisco, was overrun by flames last week. The intensified effort to locate victims came on the sixth day of a blaze that incinerated more than 7,000 homes and other buildings
Search teams were scouring the devastated town of Paradise on Tuesday with the grim expectation of finding more bodies in the aftermath of the deadliest wildfire in California history. Finding remains is a painstaking process that is often guided by cadaver dogs after an intense fire like the one that struck Paradise and surrounding areas, where at least 48 people have been killed, about 200 are still missing and much is reduced to ashes. Coroners and dozens of other searchers have fanned out across the area, and two portable morgues are waiting to collect the dead.
Here are the latest developments:
- The Camp Fire, as the blaze that ripped through Paradise is known, is only about 35 percent contained, and has burned 130,000 acres. It continues to rage in the hills and ravines east of the city of Chico.
- “There are potentially over 100 people that were killed in Butte,” Thom Porter, a Cal Fire chief, said late Tuesday at a meeting for evacuees, speaking about Butte County.
Cause of Spread
1. Powerful winds
In Southern California, the Santa Ana winds pushing the fires are expected to remain strong in Ventura and Los Angeles counties through Tuesday, CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said Monday. In fact, the strongest winds for Southern California may come Tuesday and could reach near-hurricane gale force, he said. These winds, which began in the middle of last week, may last through the end of this week. In Northern California, the offshore winds that had been whipping the area for days are expected to die down Monday, Hennen said. The classic offshore flow was similar to the Santa Ana winds.
2. Lack of rain, dry conditions
Though the drought in California has eased somewhat, all of the state is still abnormally dry, CNN meteorologist Taylor Ward said. That makes a lot of dry vegetation for the fires to burn. More than half the state is in a moderate drought or worse and 18% of the state, including the area near the Woolsey Fire, is in severe drought, according to the US Drought Monitor. Over the past month, much of the state has received less than 5% of its normal rainfall. Tim Chavez, a fire behavior analyst for Cal Fire, said the Camp Fire is “unique to be this late in northern California.” Normally, a series of storms would have dampened the woods and brush by now, he said Friday at a news conference. But it hasn’t rained much this fall, he said, creating “mid-summer-like conditions.” “It kind of lined up perfectly to have the large 90,000-plus acre fire run we had (Thursday),” Chavez said. “Fuels will continue to get drier and drier and drier until we do finally get a season-ending rainfall event.”
3. The terrain makes it hard for firefighters
The hills and canyons of Southern California are beautiful, but they can make it difficult for firefighters to gain access to wildfires. The fire that broke out Friday near the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens occurred on a steep hillside that could not be accessed by firetrucks, so firefighters had to approach the fire on foot, CNN affiliate KCBS reported. The canyons can accelerate fires. They act as funnels for the wind, which pushes already heated air upward.