Following the Camp Fire, figurines rest atop a scorched car on Pearson Road, Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, in Paradise, Calif. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Northern California wildfire is deadliest in state history

Holding out slim hope as crews search for more fire dead; 42 already killed in blaze

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 kilometres) 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 kilometres) northeast of San Francisco.

READ MORE: Northern California fire officials begin agonizing search for dead

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.

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.

READ MORE: VIDEO – Wildfire nearly quadruples in size

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-kilometre) 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 kilometres), 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.

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

First Things First and Penticton Lakeside Resort hosting environmental all-candidates debate Oct. 15

Ahead of the debate, there will be a round table discussion with the candidates

Final day of racing approaching at the Penticton Speedway

The Halloween finale starts at 2 p.m. on Oct. 27.

Travelling around the world of Penticton’s cuisines with Foodtopia

The 500 block celebrated the variety of restaurants on Main Street with a night of specials.

Parts of KVR Trail becoming dumping ground for stolen vehicles

More vehicles are turning up due to more patrolling, says Const. James Grandy

Hungry can enjoy Thanksgiving meal thanks to Soupateria volunteers

Thanksgiving and Christmas busiest time of year, says volunteer Randy Cranston

B.C.’s rural paramedic program expands, with home support

Advanced care ambulance staff added for six communities

Shuswap ski area vies for $250,000 as top-four finalist in national contest

Help needed to accumulate votes or ‘clicks’ Friday, Oct. 18 through Sunday for trail lighting project

Letter: Policies need to be put into context

Reader wants to put party policies into the context of money compared to the natural world.

BC Ferries sees steady traffic of post-Thanksgiving weekend travellers

Ferries filling up fast, sailing waits at some terminals

‘Save the kids!’ Dorian survivor tells the harrowing story of his Canadian wife’s death

Family held a funeral and placed Alishia Liolli’s remains in a niche at a cemetery in Windsor, Ont.

Okanagan woman, 91, votes at advance polls despite broken hip, shoulder and wrist

Angela Maynard has voted in almost every election during her lifetime

Heiltsuk Nation open first Big House in 120 years in northern B.C.

Opening means the community now has an appropriate space for spiritual and ceremonial events

Singh says NDP would form coalition with the Liberals to stop Tories

Singh was in a Liberal-held riding Sunday afternoon in Surrey where he was pressed about his post-election intentions

‘My heart goes out to the mother’: B.C. dad reacts to stabbing death of Ontario boy

Carson Crimeni, who was also 14, was bullied relentlessly, his dad says

Most Read