Death Toll In California Wildfires Climbs To At Least 31 | WBEZ
Skip to main content

NPR

Death Toll In California Wildfires Climbs To At Least 31

Updated at Monday 3:30 a.m. ET

Wildfires continued to tear through Northern and Southern California on Monday, where firefighters were at the mercy of dry air and whipping winds fanning the deadly blazes. At least 31 people have died statewide.

Authorities in Northern California said six more bodies were found in the scorched path of the what officials call the Camp Fire, which earlier was blamed for 23 deaths. Two people have been reported dead in a fire zone of Southern California.

As of Sunday night, the Camp Fire was only 25 percent contained at 111,000 acres (173 square miles), the Butte County Fire Department and Cal Fire said in a Sunday evening joint news conference. More than 4,500 personnel are working to combat it.

According to authorities, 52,000 people have evacuated the Camp Fire area and 1,385 people are in shelters.

Authorities have yet to account for 228 people.

Many people who were first reported missing have since been found in shelters, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said. "We're working with shelters to try to get that information so that we can resolve those cases, but there has been some difficulty," he said.

His office has established additional hotlines for those trying to locate their loved ones.

Steve Kaufmann, a Ventura County Fire Department captain, said 6,713 structures have been leveled by the Camp Fire — among them, 6,435 homes. "We anticipate that number will increase significantly," he said.

The Camp Fire ramped up quickly from Saturday into Sunday, Cal Fire battalion chief Josh Bischof said. Some areas were calmer, including Paradise and Magalia, where responders entered and were able to "mop up patrol around structures," he said. Aircraft were also able to enter the "problem area" of Santos Ranch to contain the fire.

"There is still very steep, very challenging area between Santos Ranch up into the bottom part of Magalia," Bischof said, "however, we are making progress."

Winds gusts increased Saturday night, setting a "red flag wind warning" — meaning active critical weather conditions of strong gusty winds and dry conditions will present a challenge to firefighters and containment efforts.

"Once we get through that, we'll still see very dry conditions over the next few days but with lighter winds, which is a good thing for firefighters," Alex Hoon, a fire weather meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said.

A red flag warning will remain in effect until 7 a.m. Pacific Time (10 a.m. ET). The last rainfall in the area that amounted to even a half-inch came 211 days ago.

Authorities are anticipating additional spot fires, and are primed and ready to combat potential fires in the areas south of North Fork Feather River.

Evacuation orders in effect for Berry Creek, Rush Creek, Mountain House and Bloomer Hill.

About 500 miles south of the Camp Fire, the Woolsey fire that's put about 170,000 people under mandatory evacuation orders is now 15 percent contained, according to Cal Fire data. The fire, fueled by whipping Santa Ana winds, has grown marginally to 85,500 acres (134 square miles).

Some mandatory evacuation orders in the region have lifted, including areas in Thousand Oaks, where authorities anticipate sporadic utility outages.

Paramount Ranch — the backdrop for many films and television shows including Westworld — has also been destroyed.

As NPR reported on Saturday, investigators in Malibu are looking into the deaths of two people after their bodies were found "severely burned" inside a vehicle.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Get the WBEZ App

Download the best live and on-demand public radio experience. Find out more.

CLOSE X