Search for hundreds missing continues as California wildfires expand
The two large wildfires that have been burning for nearly a week in California, killing at least 44 people, continued to grow on Tuesday, while emergency teams are still searching for over 200 missing people.
The “Camp Fire” is already the deadliest fire in the state’s history, having caused the deaths of at least 42 people, and also the most destructive, having destroyed more than 6,700 buildings.
The town of Paradise, once home to 26,000 inhabitants, has been almost entirely destroyed.
Despite the efforts of more than 5,000 firefighters, the fire continued to grow to reach 50,500 hectares, and was just 30 percent contained, the State Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Cal Fire said.
Local media pointed out that many of the people who remain missing are older people, some with reduced mobility, which would have had difficulties to evacuate.
The only fatalities identified to date by the authorities are Jesus Fernandez, 48, a resident of Concow; Carl Wiley, 77, of Magalia; and Ernest Foss, 65, of Paradise.
The origin of the fire remains unknown, and Cal Fire spokeswoman Janet Upton said investigators are exploring all possible causes, “including the possibility that the fire started from a spark of electrical equipment.”
The state’s largest gas and electric utility, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E), informed regulators that it detected a “problem” in a high-voltage line near the area where the fire was declared only a few minutes before the flames started.
Parallel to the “Camp Fire,” another large fire burns in the southern part of the state, near Los Angeles, the “Woolsey Fire” which has caused the deaths of two people who got lost while trying to escape the flames in their vehicle.
The Woolsey Fire has destroyed at least 435 buildings, including the homes of several celebrities such as Neil Young and Miley Cyrus, and devastated some 38,800 hectares.