Following the Camp Fire, figurines rest atop a scorched car on Pearson Road, Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, in Paradise, Calif. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Following the Camp Fire, figurines rest atop a scorched car on Pearson Road, Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, in Paradise, Calif. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Northern California wildfire is deadliest in state history

Holding out slim hope as crews search for more fire dead; 42 already killed in blaze

More than a dozen coroner search and recovery teams looked for human remains from a Northern California wildfire that killed at least 42 — making it the deadliest in state history — as anxious relatives visited shelters and called police hoping to find loved ones alive.

Lisa Jordan drove 600 miles (1,000 kilometres) from Yakima, Washington, to search for her uncle, Nick Clark, and his wife, Anne Clark, of Paradise, California. Anne Clark suffers from multiple sclerosis and is unable to walk. No one knows if they were able to evacuate, or even if their house still exists, she said.

“I’m staying hopeful,” she said. “Until the final word comes, you keep fighting against it.”

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea updated the confirmed fatality number Monday night — a figure that is almost certain to spike following the blaze that last week destroyed Paradise, a town of 27,000 about 180 miles (290 kilometres) northeast of San Francisco.

READ MORE: Northern California fire officials begin agonizing search for dead

Authorities were bringing in two mobile morgue units and requesting 150 search and rescue personnel. Officials were unsure of the exact number of missing.

“I want to recover as many remains as we possibly can, as soon as we can. Because I know the toll it takes on loved ones,” Honea said.

Chaplains accompanied some coroner search teams that visited dozens of addresses belonging to people reported missing. For those on the grim search, no cars in the driveway is good, one car a little more ominous and multiple burned-out vehicles equals a call for extra vigilance.

State officials said the cause of the inferno was under investigation.

READ MORE: VIDEO – Wildfire nearly quadruples in size

Meanwhile, a landowner near where the blaze began, Betsy Ann Cowley, said she got an email from Pacific Gas & Electric Co. the day before the fire last week telling her that crews needed to come onto her property because the utility’s power lines were causing sparks. PG&E had no comment on the email.

Stan Craig’s sister, Beverly Craig Powers, has not returned numerous texts and calls, and the adult children of her partner, Robert Duvall, have not heard from their father, he said. The couple was last seen evacuating their Paradise home on Thursday with two pickup trucks and a travel trailer, so they could be camping.

He knows friends and family are still being reunited with missing loved ones, but he said his unease grows every day. Still, the Fresno, California, resident wasn’t planning on heading to the fire area. As a former firefighter himself, he said he understands the chaos wildfires cause.

“I’m going to stay here until I have something more to go on,” he said.

The blaze was part of an outbreak of wildfires on both ends of the state. Together, they were blamed for 44 deaths, including two in celebrity-studded Malibu in Southern California , where firefighters appeared to be gaining ground against a roughly 143-square-mile (370-square-kilometre) blaze that destroyed at least 370 structures, with hundreds more feared lost.

All told, more than 8,000 firefighters statewide were battling wildfires that destroyed more than 7,000 structures and scorched more than 325 square miles (840 square kilometres), the flames feeding on dry brush and driven by blowtorch winds.

There were tiny signs of some sense of order returning to Paradise and anonymous gestures meant to rally the spirits of firefighters who have worked in a burned-over wasteland for days.

Large American flags stuck into the ground lined both sides of the road at the town limits, and temporary stop signs appeared overnight at major intersections. Downed power lines that had blocked roads were cut away, and crews took down burned trees with chain saws.

The 42 dead in Northern California surpassed the deadliest single fire on record, a 1933 blaze in Griffith Park in Los Angeles. A series of wildfires in Northern California’s wine country last fall killed 44 people and destroyed more than 5,000 homes.

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

The Shuswap River in Enderby draws in people from near and far in the summer months of each year. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
RDNO ends lengthy attempt to bring new boating regulations to Shuswap River

With no consensus among stakeholders or remaining funds, the regional district is moving on

The final phase of Vernon’s north-south travel corridor on 29th and 30th Streets will begin at 9 a.m. Friday, June 18, 2021. (Shawn Talbot Photography)
Vernon’s 39th Avenue rail crossing closed tomorrow for warning system upgrades

The final phase of the city’s double roundabout intersection is starting months earlier than expected

sdaf
Lake Country home destroyed in large blaze, 11 dogs rescued

Fire crews are responding to 10839 Hallam Drive

Fanny Chapman doesn’t just serve up Mexican flavours at the Kal Lake Food concession at Kal Beach, she also teaches Spanish. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Vernonites asked to share funniest Spanish translation stories

Mexicans living in town holding a contest to offer free Spanish classes

(City of Enderby photo)
Enderby council honours local volunteer ‘cornerstone’

Melvin Slater receives the Lifetime Civic Merit Award for his decades of work with service organizations

Bear wanders Kelowna on June 15. (Michelle Wallace/Facebook)
Bear climbs fence, uses crosswalk in Kelowna

The bear was spotted on Baron Road Wednesday evening

Hundreds of people, young and old, joined the three-day Walking Our Spirits Home procession, honouring residential school survivors, those who never made it home and all those affected by the institutions. Here people walk the third portion on June 13. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Walking Our Spirits Home from Kamloops provides path to healing

First Nations in and beyond Secwépemc territory join in to honour residential school survivors

More flames
Lake Country home destroyed in large blaze, 11 dogs rescued

Fire crews are responding to 10839 Hallam Drive

(Facebook/Kelowna Cabs)
Kelowna Cabs reaches tentative agreement with dispatchers union

The tentative agreement could help end the dispute between the taxi company and the dispatchers

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

201 First Street West 1980s. Prior revitalization. (Photo from Revelstoke Museum and Archives)
Man who redesigned downtown Revelstoke honoured with lifetime achievement award

Robert Inwood has worked on historical projects across the province

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

The weekly COVID-19 map for June 6 to 12. (BC CDC)
South Okanagan sees only 5 new cases in last week

The Similkameen Valley went a second week without any new cases

Most Read