California fires: strong winds fuel fire as death toll increases

At least 31 people have died in the fires: 29 in the Camp fire in northern California, and 2 in the Woolsey fire in the south.

The Camp fire – the most destructive in the history of the state and one of the deadliest – practically reduced the town of Paradise to ashes, destroying thousands of houses and structures.

There are 228 people missing as a result of the fire, said Kory Honea, sheriff and investigating judge of Butte County.

The Woolsey fire is still a major fire and has displaced hundreds of thousands of residents as it moves east. Among those affected there are several celebrities.

“This is not the new normal, it’s the new abnormality,” said Governor Jerry Brown on the role of climate change in fires.

Firefighters made progress to contain the fires on Saturday, but the return of strong winds a day later threatened that progress, especially in the Woolsey fire.

“Sadly, with these winds, this is not over yet,” Scott Jalbert, head of the San Luis Obispo unit of Cal Fire, said Sunday morning.

On Sunday, firefighters managed to control flares generated by winds in Los Angeles County. But officials warned that the dry conditions that fuel the fire will continue during the week.

Damage

These are the most recent data on fires in California:

– Camp Fire: the largest of the three fires, the Camp, has burned nearly 45,000 hectares in northern California and by Sunday morning had been contained by 25%, according to Cal Fire. It has destroyed approximately 6,700 buildings, mostly houses.

– Woolsey and Hill fires: in southern California, the Woolsey fire has spread to 34,600 hectares and by Sunday night had been contained by 15%, 5% more than the previous night. The smaller Hill fire covered 1,800 hectares and had been contained by 75%. Together they had destroyed some 179 structures, but another 57,000 are in danger, authorities said.

– Mass evacuations: more than 300,000 people have been forced to leave their homes throughout the state. The majority are residents of Los Angeles County, where 170,000 have been evacuated.

search of more victims

The painful process of finding the disappeared and identifying the dead is a challenge, given that some of the recovered bodies are so burned that it is impossible to recognize them.

“In some cases, the only remains we’ve been able to recover are bones and bone fragments,” said Sheriff Honea. “I know that members of the community who have lost loved ones are anxious, and I know that the news that we have recovered bodies can be disconcerting.”

Many of the bodies recovered in the Camp fire were found inside or near homes or in vehicles, officials said.

Hours after the fire started, residents fleeing Paradise were trapped in traffic as the fire approached. Some drivers abandoned their vehicles in the middle of the chaos and tried to escape on foot.

Deanna Hackney, Sara Weisfeldt, Ralph Ellis and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.

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