Eight more people have been found dead and at least 130 are still missing as wildfires continue to burn across California.
The Camp Fire raging north of Sacramento is the deadliest wildfire in California history, and authorities announced on Wednesday that the death tolls now stands at 56. Two other victims were also found dead in the Woolsey Fire in Southern California, bringing the total number of wildfire-related deaths statewide to 58.
Cal Fire said the Camp Fire has so far consumed 140,000 acres and destroyed nearly 9,000 homes as of Thursday night. The fire is about 40% contained, and officials do not expect it to be fully contained until November 30.
Southern California is also facing multiple wildfires, although the largest blazes were nearly contained by Thursday morning. The Woolsey Fire, which is burning 98,362 acres northwest of Los Angeles and has claimed two lives, was 91% contained as of Thursday morning. The Hill Fire in Ventura County has burned 4,531 acres, but was 97% contained.
Sheriff Korey Honea of Butte County said Wednesday that eight bodies were recovered from the Camp Fire in the town of Paradise, which has been virtually destroyed in the blaze. The Sheriff’s office has released the names of three of the victims and has “tentatively identified” the remains of 47 others, Honea said.
Since the fire broke out on Thursday, the Camp Fire has become the state’s most destructive fire in at least a century. In Paradise alone, more than 7,100 structures, almost all of them homes, were incinerated by Monday evening. More than 5,400 personnel are currently battling the blaze and searching for the deceased.
Officials fighting the Camp Fire released a partial list of the missing to local media outlets on Tuesday night. About 100 names were on the list. The majority of the missing are senior citizens, and many are residents of Paradise.
On Wednesday, Sheriff Honea asked community members whose family members are missing to come forward to provide DNA which could help identify their loved ones.
“This is an unprecedented event,” Honea told reporters earlier this week. “My sincere hope is that I don’t have to come here each night and report a higher and higher number. I’m going to do everything in my power to get through this as quickly as possible because I owe it to the family members of these victims.”
About 50,000 people are currently displaced due to the fire, according a spokesperson for the Red Cross.
Sheriff Honea said Tuesday night that six people had been arrested for looting during the campfire.
The entire city of Malibu was ordered to evacuate ahead of the Woolsey Fire. It is home to about 13,000 people, among them some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
According to the Associated Press, Southern California state officials put the total number of people forced from their homes by all active wildfires at about 250,000.
What President Trump has said
President Donald Trump approved a major disaster declaration for California on Monday, a move which comes just two days after he drew ire for tweeting about the wildfires without mentioning the victims. Instead, he criticized forest management and threatened to withhold federal payments to California.
His comments prompted backlash among firefighters, politicians and celebrities in the fire-besieged state.
On Tuesday, the president eventually offered his condolences for the lives lost, and thanked the firefighters for their efforts.
Where are the California wildfires?
The above wildfire map from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection shows fires burning in several parts of the state, including the Camp Fire and the Woolsey Fire.
Fires are spreading through multiple national forests, including the Sierra Nevada National Forest, Mendocino National Forest, Modoc National Forest, Lassen National Forest and Plumas National Forest.
The map also shows fires burning in the areas north and south of San Francisco and areas surrounding Los Angeles.
How big are the California wildfires?
The Camp Fire in Northern California blazed through over 130,000 acres by Tuesday, up from 125,000 the day before. The entire town of Paradise was scorched, leaving smoldering homes and burned-out cars in its wake. Cal Fire officials said that the Camp Fire was 35% contained as of Tuesday.
The Woolsey Fire in Southern California has now burned though 97,620 acres. That blaze was also 47% contained by Wednesday. At least 435 homes have been destroyed, and more than 75,000 homes in western Los Angeles and eastern Ventura County were evacuated. Residents were advised to avoid canyon roads and use the Pacific Coast Highway as they evacuated.
The Hill Fire in Ventura County was partially contained over the weekend, prompting officials to allow some residents to return to their homes as of Sunday. The fire was 94% contained as of Wednesday morning, and had burned 4,531 acres.
What started the wildfires?
A Pacific Gas & Electric Co. electrical transmission line may have started the devastating wildfire in Northern California, the AP reports. Betsy Cowley, who owns 64 acres of land near where the wildfire began, said Monday that she received an email from the utility last week indicating there was an issue with the transmission system on her property. The email said crews needed to come to Cowley’s property because the transmission system was causing sparks, she told the AP.
PG&E said on Thursday that it encountered a problem on an electrical transmission line near the fire before the flames broke out and spread throughout the area. The problems started within the area of land that Cowley owns in Pulga, Calif. Cowley told the AP that crews were responding to the area because “they were having problems with sparks.”
PG&E shares dropped 17.4% Monday as the wildfires continued to burn in California.
Southern California Edison, another utility, reported to state utilities regulators that it had an outage on an electrical circuit near where the Woolsey fire began. SoCal Edison said the wildfire was reported at 2:24 p.m. Thursday, about two minutes after the outage on the circuit.
No official cause has been determined for either wildfire.
Where are people being evacuated?
Authorities on Thursday issued mandatory evacuation orders in rural areas of Northern California, the AP reports. The 27,000 residents of Paradise, Calif., were ordered to evacuate the area on Thursday. Staff and 41 patients at the Adventist Health Feather River Hospital in Paradise were evacuated to other hospitals because it was close to the oncoming wildfire. Highway 70, located near the wildfire, was closed down and the California Highway Patrol asked drivers to avoid the road.
In Southern California, authorities quickly issued evacuation orders on Thursday as fires erupted near Ventura County. Residents of the Camarillo Springs community and a trailer park were evacuated.
Schools and hospitals also evacuated. California State University ordered evacuations Thursday afternoon, citing poor air quality.
After the Santa Ana winds that had fueled the fires died down Saturday, some evacuated Southern California residents have retuned home, though officials have warned that the danger is not over. Another series of strong winds was expected to hit the area from Sunday to Tuesday.
Air quality alert issued in San Francisco and surrounding areas
Air quality in San Francisco and areas around it were rated in an unhealthy range, according to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which issued a red alert and warned residents to close windows, stay hydrated and stay inside when possible.
“The Bay Area will experience air quality impacts as smoke from the Camp Fire in Butte County, northeast of the Bay Area, moves in to the region,” the alert reads. “Most of the smoke is expected to remain aloft but the public will likely see and smell smoke from the quickly expanding Camp Fire.”