On Saturday, the most destructive fire in California’s history became the third deadliest, with the remains of 10 more people discovered in the area, growing the death toll to 23. As officials continue to assess the Camp Fire devastation in Paradise, Concow and Magalia, they fear the toll will continue to rise.
“We’re still at the very, very front end of this incident,” said Todd Durham, a Cal Fire division chief who is a unified commander for the Camp Fire. “We may have very, very challenging times to come.”
The remains of the deceased were mostly found in their homes and cars, most likely utterly shocked by the swift and devastating movement of the wildfire on Thursday night. Due to the state of the bodies, DNA experts have been sent to the scene to collect genetic samples in hopes of identifying the deceased.
The deadliest fire in California’s history is the Griffith Park Fire of 1933, which killed 29 people. Unfortunately, it’s a grim milestone that’s in sight for the Camp Fire. 50 people remain missing as officials continue to search the area.
The Camp Fire became the most destructive fire in California’s history on Friday when firefighters counted the total number of burnt structures in the area. All in all, 6,453 homes and 260 commercial buildings burned to the ground. Almost the entire town of Paradise, with a population of 20,000 people, is gone.
Firefighters are continuing the fight on the Camp Fire as strong winds picked up again on Saturday evening and are expected to last until Monday. Northeastern winds of up to 50 mph could move the fire towards Oroville. More than 4,000 fire personnel were fighting the blaze in hopes of halting its movement into populated areas.
Cal Fire officials weren’t able to say the likelihood of the fire reaching Oroville, but that homes northeast of the town, closer to Lake Oroville, are threatened. In essence, the fire would have to wrap around Lake Oroville to reach the town of 20,000 people, a feat that isn’t impossible.
“That is a potential threat, and we’re trying to mitigate that,”Cal Fire spokesman Kevin Tidwell said. “It’ll be similar wind conditions to when the fire first started, and with a significant wind event like that, our crews are worried about (the fire’s) potential to spread.”
In all, more than 50,000 people have been displaced by the fire. Evacuation orders are also in place for Magalia, Concow, Butte Creek Canyon and Butte Valley. The fire now sits at 105,000 acres burned with 20 percent containment, with expectations that it won’t be fully contained until late November.
Northern California’s Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine