California fires: Death toll rises to 42 as authorities search for survivors

Gerard Butler More

Gerard Butler More

The death toll from the wildfire that incinerated Paradise and surrounding areas climbed to 29 - matching the mark for the deadliest single blaze in California history - as crews continued searching for bodies in the smoldering ruins, with almost 230 people unaccounted for.

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

The 42 confirmed fatalities marked the highest death toll in history from a single California wildfire, Honea said, far surpassing the previous record of 29 lives lost in 1933 from the Griffith Park blaze in Los Angeles.

PG&E said in a statement it will cooperate with any investigations stemming from the massive wildfires in Northern California. But the area is likely to rebound, as many residents have the money to replace their homes and ruined landscapes quickly. Of the six discovered Sunday, five were in homes and one was in a vehicle.

The Camp Fire in Northern California and the Woolsey Fire in Southern California have killed more than 30 people combined, and hundreds of thousands have had to abandon their homes.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said that 228 people are still unaccounted for; many of them are probably in shelters, and authorities are working to resolve those cases, he said. But it's far from the main ingredient in California's fire problem, and it's nothing at all to do with either the current Camp Fire, or the massive Tubbs Fire that scorched Napa and the wine country past year, according to experts.

President Donald Trump, who drew criticism over the weekend for erroneously blaming the fires on "gross mismanagement" of forests, approved California Governor Jerry Brown's request for a major disaster declaration on Monday. Controlling that fuel by removing it, rearranging it, or even burning it deliberately to create fire lines all falls into a forest management plan. In Ventura County, at least two people have been killed in the Woolsey and Hill fires.

On the ground, cars caught in the flames have been reduced to scorched metal skeletons, while piles of debris smolder where houses once stood, an occasional brick wall or chimney remaining.

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The wildfires sweeping through Southern California over the past few days have been nothing short of devastating and profoundly tragic. Everything is burned up.

Federal fire and weather data show the years with the most acres burned were generally a degree warmer than average.

The Camp Fire is on track to be California's deadliest wildfire; Claudia Cowan reports from Paradise, California.

No civilians and firefighters have been injured and full containment is expected by Thursday.

In southern California, the Woolsey Fire claimed two lives as it tore through beach resorts and coastal homes in Malibu, west of Los Angeles. Those remains recovered today were located in Paradise.

While some Malibu-area residents were allowed to return home late Sunday, the city of Calabasas, just northeast of coastal Malibu, came under evacuation orders.

"We are entering a new normal".

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