California Wildfires Death Toll Climbs to 50

Photo of California Wildfires Death Toll Climbs to 50

Search teams in California looked Wednesday for the remains of more people killed by devastating wildfires that have ravaged the western U.S. state, with the toll now at 50 and expected to increase.Rescue workers with cadaver dogs and a rapid DNA analysis system focused much of their attention near the northern California town of Paradise, a community of 27,000 people virtually destroyed by the infernos in what is now the deadliest blaze in the state's history. In the span of a few days, the intense fires destroyed more than 7,000 homes, but the fires are only 35 percent contained.Survivors escaped to rescue shelters, posting pictures of their loved ones and friends on bulletin boards in hopes someone might know whether they were able to flee to safety. One evacuee, Harold Taylor, told the Associated Press, "We didn't have 10 minutes to get out of there. It was already in flames downtown, all of the local restaurants and stuff."He said he unsuccessfully sought to convince a neighbor friend to escape with him and does not know what happened to him.President Donald Trump said he spoke with California Governor Jerry Brown "to let him know that we are with him, and the people of California, all the way!" Trump praised rescue workers after being briefed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Brock Long, chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, on their tour of the devastation."Thank you to the great Firefighters, First Responders and @FEMA for the incredible job they are doing w/ the California Wildfires. Our Nation appreciates your heroism, courage & genius. God Bless you all!" Trump said on Twitter. Search for missing continuesAuthorities said more than 200 people were still unaccounted for as the searches continued and the fire advanced to the north and east of Paradise.Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told reporters the six bodies discovered Tuesday were found in homes.When asked if authorities had done enough to warn people to evacuate, Honea said they did their best, and that after this fire is fully dealt with there will be time to examine what lessons can be learned for the future. "We were trying to move tens of thousands of people out of an area, very rapidly, with the fire coming very rapidly, and no matter what your plan is to do that, no plan will ever work 100 percent when you're dealing with that much chaos," he said.Wildfires are common in California, particularly at this time of year when warm, dry winds help quickly spread flames.Honea said it's possible people were lulled into a false sense of security by the past success fire crews had in controlling fires that broke out in the region."I think often times people rely on their past experience, and perhaps in this case to their detriment," he said.Fire officials said they had some success in fighting the fire as weather conditions that had made the fires so prone to spread eased somewhat, but that lingering swirling winds and the steep terrain where they are working present challenges. Aviva Braun of the National Weather Service said the air will remain dry this week and that the prospects for rain are looking more promising toward the end of next week. She also said that the lighter winds are causing smoke from the fires to settle instead of blow away, making for poor air quality.The cause of the fire is still under investigation, although two utility companies reported circuit and transmission problems about the time the fires started last Thursday. In addition to the “Camp Fire,” as the blaze in northern California was dubbed, two smaller fires in the southern part of the state have killed two people since last week.Trump has declared the fires a major disaster, freeing up federal funding for those affected by the blazes.He pledged Tuesday to do "everything in our power to support our fellow citizens in harm's way."

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