California fire death toll rises to 23

World Sunday 11/November/2018 16:42 PM
By: Times News Service
California fire death toll rises to 23

Paradise(United States): Firefighters battled raging blazes at both ends of drought-stricken California on Sunday, with the death toll rising to at least 23 and strong winds and dry conditions in the forecast.
The largest fires were in Butte County, a scenic area in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains north of Sacramento, and in the Los Angeles area, where two deaths possibly related to a fire were reported.
Acrid smoke from the fire covered the sky for miles, the sun barely visible. On the ground, cars caught in the flames were reduced to metal carcasses, while power lines were gnawed by the flames.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said at a late Saturday news conference that 14 more bodies had been found, bringing the number of fatalities of a blaze known as the "Camp Fire" to 23.
Mandatory evacuation orders were issued for more than 52,000 people in the area.
In the town of Paradise more than 6,700 buildings -- including a hospital, a gas station, and several restaurants -- have been consumed by the fire.
Rescuers removed human remains over several hours in Paradise and placed them in a black hearse. Charred body parts were transported by bucket, while intact remains were carried in body bags.
At the Holly Hills Mobile Estate the mobile homes had been reduced to smouldering piles of debris. Yellow police tape marked spots that were tagged "Doe C" and "Doe D," suggesting that bodies were found there.
Locals fled the danger, but police said some farmers returned to check on their cattle.
Fanned by strong winds, the blaze has so far scorched 100,000 acres (40,500 hectares) and is 20 per cent contained, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said. So far, three of the more than 3,200 firefighters deployed have been injured.
They estimate they will need three weeks to fully contain the blaze.
Local power authorities told state officials that an outage occurred near the spot where the fire erupted, The Sacramento Bee reported, but there is no official cause of the Camp Fire blaze.
President Donald Trump, in France for World War I commemorations, drew criticism for an unsympathetic reaction to the devastation.
"There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor," Trump tweeted.
"Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!"
Brian Rice, the head of the California Professional Firefighters, slammed the tweet as "ill-informed, ill-timed and demeaning to those who are suffering as well as the men and women on the front lines."
He said the president's claim that forest policies were mismanaged "is dangerously wrong."
Trump later showed more sympathy. "Our hearts are with those fighting the fires," as well as the evacuees and families of the victims, he tweeted. "God Bless them all."
But then he doubled-down on Sunday, tweeting: "With proper Forest Management, we can stop the devastation constantly going on in California. Get Smart!"
In southern California, more wildfires burned, including one just north of Los Angeles and another in Ventura County near Thousand Oaks, where a Marine Corps veteran shot dead 12 people in a country music bar on Wednesday.
Two bodies were found in Malibu -- one of the most coveted locations in California and home to a bevy of Hollywood stars -- in an area where the "Woolsey Fire" swept through, the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department said. However the incident "is being investigated by the homicide department," an LACS spokesperson said.
The Woolsey Fire has consumed around 83,000 acres, destroyed at least 177 structures and was five percent contained, Cal Fire said late Saturday. Evacuation orders had been issued for some 88,000 homes in Ventura County and neighbouring Los Angeles County.
The wildfire reached Paramount Ranch, destroying the Western Town sets used for hundreds of productions including HBO'S sci-fi western "Westworld," network officials said.
Keegan Gibbs, 33, was crushed to find that his Malibu childhood home had been consumed by flames.
"Malibu is a really small community and gets a bad rap for being this kind of elitist, snobby place, and it's exactly the opposite," Gibbs told the Los Angeles Times.
Firefighters got a respite from the strong winds on Saturday, and Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said aircraft were deployed to drop fire retardants to strengthen the fire lines.
Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen however had a warning: "Don't be lulled by a false sense of security."
Winds of between 50 and 60 miles per hour were expected through Tuesday across the region, strong enough to quickly spread flames in unexpected directions, officials said.