Firefighters battle blazes on two fronts in California, 50 dead
Thousands of firefighters battled blazes in northern and southern California yesterday as body recovery teams searched the remains of houses and charred cars for victims of the deadliest wildfire in the history of the US state. At least 50 deaths have been reported statewide so far from the late-season wildfires, and with hundreds of people unaccounted for, the toll is likely to rise.
Most of the fatalities have been caused by the so-called 'Camp Fire' in and around the town of Paradise, population 26,000, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, about 130km north of Sacramento. The 'Camp Fire' took 48 lives, after an additional six human remains were recovered today. Another two deaths have been reported from the 'Woolsey Fire', north of Los Angeles.
Paradise, home to many retirees and has experienced an unusually dry fall, was virtually razed to the ground by the fast-moving blaze. Residents have recounted harrowing tales of fleeing on foot with little more than the clothes on their backs. Others escaped by driving through tunnels of smoke and fire as flames licked at their vehicles on gridlocked roads dotted with abandoned cars.
Melissa Schuster, a member of the Paradise town council, told ABC News that the entire town of Paradise "is a toxic wasteland right now". "We have teams, you know, coroner teams, that have to go house to house and vehicle to vehicle," Schuster told ABC.
Both the fires erupted on November 8. The 'Camp Fire' has ravaged 130,000 acres of land and is 35% contained, according to Cal Fire. It has destroyed more than 6,500 homes and 260 commercial properties. Over 5,600 fire personnel are battling the blaze. The 'Woolsey Fire' has razed 97,114 acres and has been 40% contained. More than 3,500 fire personnel were battling the blaze.
The 'Woolsey Fire' on the southern end of the state has devoured mansions and mobile homes alike in the coastal town of Malibu. It has destroyed 435 structures including the 100-year-old Paramount Ranch where HBO's 'Westworld' and other popular television shows and movies were filmed. Also, it destroyed homes of many celebrities. Among those who lost their homes was the pop star, Miley Cyrus.
Governor of California Edmund Gerald Brown Jr. said he expects the fires could be worse in the years to come. "Unfortunately, the best science is telling us that the dryness, warmth, drought, all those things, they're going to intensify," he said.
On Monday, President Donald Trump, at the request of state authorities, declared that a "major disaster" exists in California. The declaration provides for federal assistance to aid state firefighting and recovery efforts in the counties of Butte, Ventura, and Los Angeles. Trump had earlier upset state officials with a claim that "gross mismanagement" of forestry in the state was responsible for the damage.