California Wildfire: Five People Confirmed Dead in Butte County

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Wildfire, Paradise, Butte County, California
Credits: AP/Noah Berger

Five people were found dead in vehicles that were overcome by a wildfire in the unincorporated town of Paradise in Butte County, California.

On Friday, the Butte County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) released a statement confirming the reports of fatalities due to the Camp Fire, which started on Thursday.  Investigators cannot immediately identify the victims due to their burn injuries.

“Autopsies will be conducted to determine the circumstances of the deaths and to begin the identification process,” according to the BCSO

Additionally, the BCSO stated, “The Butte County Coroner’s office has formed an interagency team to investigate and identify additional fatalities. We understand that many people are very anxious to locate loved ones and we encourage residents to check safeandwell.org, check with family and friends.”

Residents may contact the BCSO at (530) 538-7322 to request a welfare check or file a missing person’s report if they cannot find their loved ones.

Meanwhile, an incident report from the California Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL Fire) indicated that the Butte County Camp Fire already burnt 70,000 acres and destroyed 2,000 structures in Butte County.  The report also indicated that three firefighters were injured and 15,000 structures are at risk.

Wildfire spread rapidly, Paradise residents panicked

John Gaddie, a spokesman for CAL Fire said the town of Paradise, which is home to around 27,000 people, suffered massive destruction. The agency immediately ordered evacuation because the fire grew rapidly. All day yesterday, firefighters were focused on rescuing people and getting them out of the town.

Cal Fire Captain Scott McLean said, “There was really no firefight involved. These firefighters were in the rescue mode all day yesterday.”

In an interview with CNN, Paradise resident Whitney Vaughan said, “The flames were whipping and spreading so fast. It began to jump the road. There wasn’t anywhere to go.” She added that people started to panic and abandoned their cars escape the wildfire.

A video posted by CNN’s Nick Valencia on Twitter showed the abandoned cars in Paradise.