Cool weather helps firefighters in N. California

Frederick Owens
November 15, 2018

President Donald Trump has declared the fires a major disaster, freeing up federal funding for those affected by the blazes. "God bless all of the victims and families affected".

A member of a volunteer search and rescue crew from Calaveras County combs through a home destroyed by the Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif., on November 13, 2018.

"We mourn the lives of those lost and we pray for the victims, and there are more victims than anybody would ever think possible. Everybody I know lost everything", he said while crying for his neighbors.

A massive plume rose suddenly at mid-morning in the Santa Monica Mountains near the community of Lake Sherwood, prompting authorities to send numerous aircraft to drop fire retardant and water on the blaze.

The area has not seen such a firestorm since the Old Topanga fire of 1993. As of Monday night, almost half of the evacuation centers in Chico, Oroville and nearby towns were at capacity.

The wildfire, called the Camp Fire, has burned 130,000 acres and is 35 percent contained.

There are now 8700 firefighters working to battle the fires, including deployments from other USA states. Damage assessments were continuing, with crews having to gain access to canyon areas on foot.

The latest tally of casualties from the blaze, dubbed the Camp Fire, was announced by Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea as forensic teams combed through a ghostly landscape strewn with ash and charred debris in Paradise, once home to 27,000 people. Overall, 10 sets of remains were found in Paradise and three in neighboring Concow.

The sheriff said he also has requested three portable morgue teams from the USA military, a "disaster mortuary" crew and an unspecified number of cadaver dog units to assist in the search for human remains.

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The fires have spread with an erratic intensity that has strained firefighting resources while catching many residents by surprise.

According to the National Weather Service in Seattle, air quality remains good to moderate, despite the smoke.

A list of people missing after the Camp Fire has been released by the Butte County Sheriff's Office.

The Woolsey fire has also reached the location of a former nuclear testing site, prompting concerns from locals that the fire could interact with radiation or chemical contamination in soil and vegetation at the site. The fire that broke out in the Thousand Oaks area - which had already been coping with a mass shooting - is blamed for two deaths.

While the causes of the Camp and Woolsey fires have not been determined, state regulators are investigating two utility companies that reported incidents shortly before the two fires started.

Four days after the fire began, firefighters had it 85 percent contained and are expecting it to be fully contained on Thursday.

"It's important to remember that the cause (of the Camp Fire) has yet to be determined", PG&E said in a statement. He doesn't know if they tried to leave or not but says the fire exploded so quickly that if they hesitated, they would have had trouble. "We couldn't get everyone out because you can't fit 26,000 people out of the road at the same time", said Jones, who was just re-elected two days before the Camp Fire erupted. Still, 23,000 customers are without power and 12,000 others don't have gas, the utility said.

Over the weekend, Trump had threatened to cut off government assistance to California because of what he said was poor forest management in the state, the most populous in the United States. The first notice came on Thursday, when investigators found the remains of five people in Paradise who were apparently trapped in their cars by the blaze.

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