- Authorities are still searching for any signs of the 993 people now listed as missing after the Camp Fire tore through the mountain town of Paradise.
- By Sunday, the remains of 77 people had been recovered.
- The fire which ignited on November 8 was 65 per cent contained by Sunday evening.
PARADISE, Calif. (Reuters) – Authorities on Sunday sifted through the charred wreckage of California’s deadliest ever wildfire, searching for any signs of the 993 people now listed as missing after the Camp Fire tore through the mountain town of Paradise.
The number of believed missing fell 283 late on Sunday, down from 1,276 people, the Butte County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement, but gave no other details.
The remains of 77 people have been recovered, officials said late on Sunday. The blaze ignited on Nov. 8 was 65 per cent contained, up from 60 per cent earlier in the day.
Rain is forecast for the area this week, potentially helping douse the flames, but raising the risk of floods and mudslides that will swell the misery of 46,000 people under evacuation orders.
Many refugees from the fire have taken up temporary residence with friends and relatives, while others have pitched tents or were camping out of their vehicles.
The death toll far surpasses the previous fatality record from a single California wildfire – 29 in the Griffith Park fire of 1933 in Los Angeles – and already ranks among the deadliest U.S. wildfires since the turn of the last century.
Eighty-seven people perished in the Big Burn firestorm that swept the Northern Rockies in August 1910. Minnesota’s Cloquet Fire in October 1918 killed 450 people.
In Paradise, the flames moved so fast that some victims died in their cars in a chaotic evacuation as gridlock formed on the two exit routes out of town.
The Butte County Sheriff’s Office said the list of the missing is compiled using information received from a special hotline, as well as emails and emergency-911 calls that came in during the first chaotic hours of the blaze.
Authorities said some of those listed likely survived but have not yet notified family or officials, either because they lack phone service or were unaware anyone was looking for them.
In Paradise, home to nearly 27,000 people before the Camp Fire struck, two forensic anthropologists for the University of Nevada, Reno, were helping firefighters on Saturday sort through the wreckage at a mobile home park for senior citizens.
Firefighters peeled back the metal sheet of a collapsed roof as the anthropologists picked up charred bone fragments, sorting them into paper bags.
Roger Fielding, chief deputy coroner with the Martin County Sheriff’s Office, said each site was treated as a crime scene, with every step of recovery documented with photographs.
“Our job is to pick up any items that might reflect who this person might be,” he said.