Debris and residences leveled by the wildfire line a neighborhood in Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Missing-persons list tops 600 in fire-stricken California

Disaster escalates as officials raised the death toll to 63

  • Nov. 16, 2018 1:00 p.m.

The potential magnitude of the wildfire disaster in Northern California escalated as officials raised the death toll to 63 and released a missing-persons list with 631 names on it more than a week after the flames swept through.

The fast-growing roster of people unaccounted for probably includes some who fled the blaze and do not realize they have been reported missing, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said late Thursday.

He said he made the list public in the hope that people will see they are on it and let authorities know they are OK.

“The chaos that we were dealing with was extraordinary,” Honea said of the crisis last week, when the flames razed the town of Paradise and outlying areas in what has proved to be the nation’s deadliest wildfire in a century. “Now we’re trying to go back out and make sure that we’re accounting for everyone.”

READ MORE: B.C. couple help wildfire evacuees in northern California

Firefighters continued gaining ground against the 575-square-kilometre blaze, which was reported 45 per cent contained Friday. It destroyed 9,700 houses and 144 apartment buildings, the state fire agency said.

Rain in the forecast Tuesday night could help knock down the flames but also complicate efforts by more 450 searchers to find human remains in the ashes. In some cases, search crews are finding little more than bones and bone fragments.

Some 52,000 people have been displaced to shelters, the motels, the homes of friends and relatives, and a Walmart parking lot and an adjacent field in Chico, a dozen miles away from the ashes.

At the vast parking lot, evacuees wondered if they still have homes, if their neighbours are still alive, and where they will go from here.

“It’s cold and scary,” said Lilly Batres, 13, one of the few children there, who fled with her family from the forested town of Magalia and didn’t know whether her home was still standing. “I feel like people are going to come into our tent.”

At the other end of the state, more residents were being allowed back in their homes near Los Angeles after a wildfire torched an area the size of Denver. The 153-square-mile blaze was 69 per cent contained after destroying more than 600 homes and other structures, authorities said. At least three deaths were reported.

Schools across a large swath of the state were closed because of smoke, and San Francisco’s world-famous open-air cable cars were pulled off the streets.

Information for contacting the Federal Emergency Management Agency for assistance was posted on a board that allowed people to write the names of those they believed were missing. Several names had “Here” written next to them.

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Gloves rest in a scorched car after the Camp Fire burned through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Just Posted

Crows, pirates and Segways: L.V. Rogers students make projects out of passions

The Grade 12 students presented their capstone projects Wednesday

ANKORS among Columbia Basin Trust grant recipients

ANKORS is receiving $60,000 for a health promotion project

First 3D metal printer in rural Canada arrives at MIDAS Lab in Trail

MIDAS provides access to state-of-the-art equipment for fabrication and rapid prototyping

Learn to curl with Nelson Curling Club

The club is hosting clinic on Jan. 18

Whitewater’s Adam Kuch among winners at Junior Freeski event

The ski resort’s ninth annual freeski competition was held last weekend

VIDEO: Kootenay Patricks assemble for first practice ahead of charity game

The group of locals will play Montreal Canadiens alumni next week

‘Scariest boat ride of my life’: Passengers trapped by ice on rocky B.C. ferry sailing

The Nimpkish docked in Bella Coola on Jan.12 coated in a thick layer of ice

B.C. pair ordered to pay $55,000 for oil tank discovered four years after selling home

Judge says defendants breached contract, despite being unaware of tank until basement flooded

Canada to give $25,000 to families of each Canadian who died in Iran plane crash

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also made it clear that Canada still expects Iran to compensate victims

Good Samaritan pays part of rent for B.C. woman facing eviction in can-collecting dispute

Zora Hlevnjak, 76, supplements her pension by collecting cans and receiving public donations

Oil and gas industry applauds top court’s dismissal of B.C.’s Trans Mountain case

The high court’s ruling Thursday removes one of the remaining obstacles for the project

Sub-zero B.C. weather freezes clothing in just 45 minutes

A local photographer decided to have some fun with the frosty weather before its gone

VIDEO: Missing cat reunited with Vancouver Island family after three months

‘It was like one day she was there, the next day she was gone,’ said owner

Most Read