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The Present

California wildfires death toll climbs to 50

Firefighters in California are still struggling to contain several wildfires nearly one week after they broke out.

(Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

Key Takeaways
  • Hundreds of people are still missing after three wildfires spread across Northern and Southern California last week.
  • 48 of the 50 deaths occurred after the Camp Fire blazed through the town of Paradise, north of Sacramento.
  • On Tuesday night, a fourth wildfire broke out, though it's mostly contained.

The death toll from the California wildfires has climbed to 50 as firefighters continue to battle flames under dangerously dry and windy conditions.

The Camp Fire that destroyed the town of Paradise in Northern California has so far left at least 48 people dead and more than 200 people missing. It’s become the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California’s history.

“The entire community of Paradise is a toxic wasteland right now,” one Paradise resident told ABC News. “In addition to that, and this is the hardest part for me to even talk about, the number of fatalities is [among] things that we don’t know at this moment and that’s something that has to be determined before people can move back in.”

Officials are using cadaver dogs to search the scorched landscape for people who couldn’t escape the flames, and they’ve set up portable morgues to store bodies. Authorities have requested more assistance, including some 100 National Guard troops to assist in the search for remains and missing people.

Official says an “additional 6 human remains” were found in Paradise, California, homes, raising the death toll of the Camp Fire to 48. https://cbsn.ws/2DCqtQj pic.twitter.com/OPjPSPwYN1

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Many Paradise residents were surrounded by flames as they tried to escape the town on a two-lane road, which became clogged with traffic.

“Just in case this doesn’t work out, I want you to know I really tried to make it out,” another resident recorded in a goodbye message to his family, reports The New York Times. The man was stuck in his car on the flame-engulfed road but fortunately survived.

State regulators are investigating whether local utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, failed to properly maintain power lines in the Paradise area. Some residents are planning to sue the utility.

In Southern California, two are reported dead after the Woolsey fire struck Malibu. There are currently no deaths reported in Ventura County as a result of the Hill Fire, which was more than 90% contained as of Tuesday night. Officials don’t expect the Woolsey Fire to be contained until Sunday.

The destruction so far

Here’s an overview of the three wildfires, according to data released by Cal Fire and published by CBS News:

Camp Fire

  • Location: Butte County
  • 135,000 acres burned
  • 35 percent contained
  • 48 fatalities confirmed, 3 firefighters injured
  • 8,817 structures destroyed, 7,600 of them homes

Woolsey Fire

  • Location: Los Angeles County, Ventura County
  • 97,620 acres burned
  • 47 percent contained
  • 2 fatalities confirmed, 3 firefighters injured
  • 435 structures destroyed, 57,000 in danger

Hill Fire

  • Location: Ventura County
  • 4,531 acres burned
  • 94 percent contained

#SierraFire: Footage from earlier this evening. In #SantaAnaWinds, Dozers can often engage where it’s too dangerous for handcrews. A decisive force multiplier in tonight’s firefight. ^easpic.twitter.com/gtqmJB5pk6

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A fourth fire breaks out

On Tuesday night, a brush fire was reported in the Rialto area of San Bernardino County. Dubbed the Sierra Fire, the flames reportedly grew to cover 147 acres overnight thanks mostly to 50-mph winds. On Wednesday, officials reported that the fire was 75% contained. No deaths have been reported.


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