Despite encouraging progress by firefighters fighting California’s wildfires, the death toll has increased to 63 on Thursday. This number could still climb, since more than 600 people are still missing.
Authorities are identifying dead bodies with DNA samples. “Anyone who thinks a family member has died can come and give us a DNA sample,” said Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea.
This county is home to Paradise, the city hit by the deadliest fire in California’s history, dubbed Camp Fire. It caused the death of 63 people, 47 of whom were identified.
In this community appreciated by retirees, the research is conducted by a staff of more than 450 rescuers and 22 dogs. Some fear that, in the rush, old people have been forgotten and left to their fate.
Our mission is to find the victims of this fire, recover them and identify them to inform their relatives and give them answers.
Butte County Official
Nearly 10,000 firefighters are currently working across California to reduce the scale and growth of Camp Fire and the Woolsey Fire, which is wreaking havoc hundreds of miles south in the Malibu area.
The weather, cooler and wetter Thursday than in recent days, gave a hand to rescue teams. Camp Fire is now 40% content and Woolsey Fire 57%. In both cases, this is an increase of 5% from Wednesday.
“We are in the middle of a disaster,” Jerry Brown, governor of California, said on Thursday. More than 50,000 Californians have been evacuated in the last week.
“If this municipality gets up, it will be in many, many years,” added a resident of Magalia, just north of Paradise.
In Paradise, 8700 houses have been destroyed, and more than 15 000 buildings are still under threat, according to California Fire Control Department (Cal Fire).
Those who have survived, but have lost their homes, are currently living in makeshift camps, such as the one in the parking lot of a Chico grocery store, 20 km west of Paradise. It distributes water, food and hygiene items.
Several emergency shelters are filled and promiscuity causes health problems, according to local authorities cited by the daily Sacramento Bee . One virus reportedly affected 15 to 20 evacuees.
The White House also announced Thursday that President Trump, who criticized Saturday how California manages its forests , will visit the site this weekend.
Electricity supplier in turmoil
The origin of the Camp and Woolsey fires has not yet been confirmed, but in the case of the first, several victims have lodged a complaint against the local electricity supplier, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG & E). They claim to have seen sparks escape from a high-voltage line, which would have triggered the blaze.
The value of PG & E’s stock has declined since the birth of Camp Fire, when the stock market value of the company has declined by US $ 16 billion.
The company admitted this week that it will have to spend money beyond what its insurers cover if it was actually held responsible for Camp Fire.