California Wildfires: Death Toll Rises to 31, Hundreds of People Still Missing

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

The death toll from the wildfires spreading in California increased to 31 and hundreds of people are still missing.

Twenty-nine of the fatalities were due to the Camp Fire in Northern California and two were due to the Woolsey Fire in Southern California. The joint wildfires are now the deadliest and most destructive in the history of the state.

Northern California Camp Fire Update

Yesterday, the Butte County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that six additional individuals were confirmed dead due to the Camp Fire, which wiped out the town of Paradise and burnt surrounding communities. The number of fatalities due to the wildfire in the county reached 29.

During a press conference on Sunday, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said the latest victims were found in Paradise. Firefighters discovered five people in their burnt down homes and one person inside a vehicle.

Additionally, Sheriff Honea said at least 228 people are still missing. Authorities requested the help of forensic anthropologists and a DNA laboratory to help identify victims. In some cases, what were left for them to identify were just bone fragments—the dead were burned so bad.

The latest incident report from the California Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL Fire) indicated that the Camp Fire already incinerated 113,000 acres and destroyed 6,453 single residences and 22 commercial properties. More than 15,000 structures are still at risk as the wildfire is only 25 percent contained.

According to Paradise Mayor Jody Jones, most of the town’s residential area is gone. She estimated that 90 percent of their town is obliterated and almost all the people she knows lost their homes.

Southern California Woolsey Fire Update

Separately, the Woosley Fire in Southern California already burnt 91,572 acres and destroyed around 370 structures. Around 370,000 structures remain under threat, according to CAL Fire.

The luxury homes in Malibu and other beach communities were among those scorched by the wildfire. Among the celebrities whose homes were destroyed by the Woolsey Fire include Gerard Butler, Miley Cyrus, Neil Young, and Robin Thicke.

Butler tweeted a photo of his burnt home in Malibu and encouraged everyone to support the state’s firefighters.

On the other hand, Cyrus said she was “completely devastated by the fires” affecting her community. She added that her house is gone but the “memories shared with family and friends stand strong.”

Wildfires are the “new abnormal” in California

Meanwhile, Governor Jerry Brown requested a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to boost the ongoing emergency response and help residents recover from the deadly and destructive wildfires.

In a statement, Brown said, “We have the best firefighters and first responders in the country working in some of the most difficult conditions imaginable. We’re putting everything we’ve got into the fight against these fires and this request ensures communities on the front lines get additional federal aid.”

During a press conference on Sunday, the governor said the wildfires that threaten the lives and properties of Californians are the “new abnormal.” He warned that such tragedy could happen again the future therefore prevention is necessary.

“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. Unfortunately, the best science is telling us that dryness, warmth, and drought…they’re gonna intensify…We have real challenge here, threatening our whole way of life. We’re going to have to invest more and more in adaptation. It’s not millions. It’s billions and tens and probably hundreds of billions (of dollars).”