The death toll continues to rise as devastating California wildfires rage through both ends of the state. By Thursday, the fires had claimed 58 lives.
In the north, emergency teams sift through the remains of more than 7,600 homes and businesses of a town called Paradise. A town that is no more.
The so-called Camp Fire leveled the entire city, located 90 miles north of Sacramento. Dozens are dead and hundreds more still unaccounted for after the wildfire decimated the town of about 27,000. A DNA lab and teams of anthropologists have been brought in to help identify victims. The Camp Fire has now become the most deadly wildfire in California history.
Many of the victims were incinerated in their vehicles as they attempted to evacuate. According to Butte County Deputy Brian Evans, “The fire was moving very, very, very, very, very rapidly.” Another evacuee, 65-year-old John Yates, described the blaze as “Dante’s Inferno.”
“Black and red was all you could see,” he said.
As of Wednesday, the Camp Fire had scorched more than 200 square miles and was only 35% contained.
“Containment” refers to a physical barrier around a fire that stops it spreading — such as a river, or a shallow, 10-foot-wide trench dug by fire crews. If a fire is 100% contained, this means it has containment lines around its entire perimeter. However, the fire may still burn for days or weeks to follow.
At least one lawsuit blames a major utility for causing the blaze. The suit alleges that Pacific Gas & Electric failed to inspect and properly maintain its power lines.
At the other end of the state, the Woolsey Fire in Los Angeles County was responsible for at least two deaths. That blaze is proving to be the great equalizer, as both Malibu mansions and working class suburban homes are decimated.
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A total of 483 structures have been destroyed and another 57,000 are threatened. More than 250,000 residents have been evacuated, as this destructive wildfire consume more than 152 square miles of southern California terrain. In nearby Ventura County, another blaze, the Hill Fire, was consuming another 10 square miles.
Santa Ana winds of up to 70 mph are expected over the coming days, meaning both fires could spread quickly and unexpectedly.
More than 9,000 firefighters have been battling all three of these California wildfires non-stop since they started on November 8.
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