Holding out slim hope as crews search for more fire dead

A sign still stands at a McDonald’s restaurant burned in the Camp Fire, Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, in the northern California town of Paradise. (AP Photo/John Locher)

PARADISE, Calif. (AP) — More than a dozen coroner search and recovery teams looked for human remains from a Northern California wildfire that killed at least 42 — making it the deadliest in state history — as anxious relatives visited shelters and called police hoping to find loved ones alive.

Lisa Jordan drove 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) from Yakima, Washington, to search for her uncle, Nick Clark, and his wife, Anne Clark, of Paradise, California. Anne Clark suffers from multiple sclerosis and is unable to walk. No one knows if they were able to evacuate, or even if their house still exists, she said.

“I’m staying hopeful,” she said. “Until the final word comes, you keep fighting against it.”

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea updated the confirmed fatality number Monday night — a figure that is almost 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.

Authorities were bringing in two mobile morgue units and requesting 150 search and rescue personnel. Officials were unsure of the exact number of missing.

“I want to recover as many remains as we possibly can, as soon as we can. Because I know the toll it takes on loved ones,” Honea said.

Firefighters worked into the night Monday trying to contain a blaze that killed at least 42 people and destroyed 6,700 structures, mostly homes, in northern California. (Nov. 13)

Chaplains accompanied some coroner search teams that visited dozens of addresses belonging to people reported missing. For those on the grim search, no cars in the driveway is good, one car a little more ominous and multiple burned-out vehicles equals a call for extra vigilance.

State officials said the cause of the inferno was under investigation.

Meanwhile, a landowner near where the blaze began, Betsy Ann Cowley, said she got an email from Pacific Gas & Electric Co. the day before the fire last week telling her that crews needed to come onto her property because the utility’s power lines were causing sparks. PG&E had no comment on the email.

Stan Craig’s sister, Beverly Craig Powers, has not returned numerous texts and calls, and the adult children of her partner, Robert Duvall, have not heard from their father, he said. The couple was last seen evacuating their Paradise home on Thursday with two pickup trucks and a travel trailer, so they could be camping.

He knows friends and family are still being reunited with missing loved ones, but he said his unease grows every day. Still, the Fresno, California, resident wasn’t planning on heading to the fire area. As a former firefighter himself, he said he understands the chaos wildfires cause.

“I’m going to stay here until I have something more to go on,” he said.

The blaze was part of an outbreak of wildfires on both ends of the state. Together, they were blamed for 44 deaths, including two in celebrity-studded Malibu in Southern California , where firefighters appeared to be gaining ground against a roughly 143-square-mile (370-square-kilometer) blaze that destroyed at least 370 structures, with hundreds more feared lost.

All told, more than 8,000 firefighters statewide were battling wildfires that destroyed more than 7,000 structures and scorched more than 325 square miles (840 square kilometers), the flames feeding on dry brush and driven by blowtorch winds.

There were tiny signs of some sense of order returning to Paradise and anonymous gestures meant to rally the spirits of firefighters who have worked in a burned-over wasteland for days.

Large American flags stuck into the ground lined both sides of the road at the town limits, and temporary stop signs appeared overnight at major intersections. Downed power lines that had blocked roads were cut away, and crews took down burned trees with chain saws.

The 42 dead in Northern California surpassed the deadliest single fire on record, a 1933 blaze in Griffith Park in Los Angeles. A series of wildfires in Northern California’s wine country last fall killed 44 people and destroyed more than 5,000 homes.

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Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Sudhin Thanawala, Janie Har, Jocelyn Gecker and Daisy Nguyen in San Francisco and Andrew Selsky in Salem, Oregon.

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4 thoughts on “Holding out slim hope as crews search for more fire dead

  1. My heart and prayers go out to the men and women who go into this inferno to search and rescue, to help others and to help stop this. My prayers to the families that have lost so much including loved ones. Some have the ability to build what was lost but not all, prayers to all to have the facility to do so. I’m also praying for much needed rain.

    Thank you Gordon, for keeping us abreast. Pray all is well with you. You also are in my prayers. God bless.

  2. Hello Gordon, I honestly did not know that the fenders, grills, and glass would all burn out of a car. It’s astonishing to watch as a house explodes or a car gas tank explodes and leaves nothing more than a frame and steering wheel. The movie stars homes with bent steel frames that got so hot that they lost strength and gave way and failed to hold anything up. I had many years in construction and when we used steel beams that meant that the house would be impervious to danger. Not so! Fire is unmerciful in its full force. I’m sick in sorrow for my fellow human beings that have lost homes and possessions.

    California just lost 12 innocents in a bar café shooting massacre last week and now these fires. I don’t ever want to get gleeful about a earthquake or fire or tragedy of any kind causing misery and lose. I have heard some pastors speak as if they look forward to the judgment to come upon Californians. The ground and brush environment in California is all fire kindling. People are being trapped in their cars and homes and going out into the eternity they never thought would catch up with them. I wonder how many chances these who died had to respond to the Gospel and never responded to the call in their lifetime.

    Thanks for your articles,
    Ethin

    • Thanks for your comment Ethin!

      The destruction and devastation that these fires are doing is horrible and tragic. The victims of these tragic events including the mass shooting need our prayers, as well as the state of California.

      God bless! Maranatha!

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