Specialists are called in to identify the dead after California fire disaster

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/california-fires-specialist-dna-teams-13574095

Specialist DNA teams were sent in to help identify California’s dead as the death toll from wildfires ravaging the state hit 25.

Around 110 people are missing amid the chaos and the remains of some victims are so badly burned they can only be identified through genetic comparison with relatives.

More than 250,000 people are under evacuation orders and firefighters were struggling to contain three fires – Camp, Woolsey and Hill – that have engulfed an area of more than 200 square miles.

Sheriff Kory Honea said 14 bodies were recovered in the northern Camp fire on Saturday, most of them in the town of Paradise – which has almost been destroyed by the inferno.



Flames burn near a home atop a ridge near Big Bend, California on Saturday

Local Rex Stewart, 66, said: “Paradise is gone. There’s nothing to go back to.”

In Southern California, two bodies were found in a burned-out vehicle.

Sheriff Honea said: “I know members of our community who are missing loved ones are anxious and I know the news of us recovering bodies has to be disconcerting.

“We are doing everything we possibly can to identify those remains and make contact with the next of kin.

“In some cases, the only remains are bones or bone fragments.”



The death toll rose to almost two dozen by Saturday

The Department of Justice has sent its mobile DNA lab while the California State Chico anthropology team was also called in, identifying bones and bone fragments from the scorched rubble.

They are working alongside four coroner search and recovery teams.

Sheriff Honea said police had 508 calls from friends and family trying to locate loved ones.

Of those, 110 missing person requests were still pending. There were also more than 50 reports of looting.

After a brief respite in conditions on Saturday, high winds returned yesterday and sped up the spread of the flames.



Property destroyed by the Woolsey Fire smolders in the Point Dume neighborhood of Malibu, California

At one point, progress was so rapid the blaze was covering the equivalent of 80 football pitches a minute.

Firefighters have only managed to contain 20% of the Camp fire, 5% of Woolsey and 25% of Hill.

Shelters are being forced to turn people away as they are so full.

And some 15,000 buildings have been destroyed or damaged – some belonging to Hollywood stars.

Singer Robin Thicke, 41, lost his Malibu home in the Woolsey fire.



Burnt out vehicles are seen on the side of the road in Paradise, California

His girlfriend, April Geary, posted a shot of the fire, writing: “Our house is somewhere in there.

“Praying for everyone in Malibu, our city is up in flames.”

Scottish actor Gerard Butler, 48, and girlfriend Morgan Brown, 41, fled their £5million home in Malibu yesterday.

Other stars with homes in danger include Cher, Orlando Bloom, Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.



Gerard Butler and his girlfriend leaving their luxury home in Malibu

Meanwhile, Donald Trump sent condolences to blaze victims – 15 hours after threatening to cut off federal funds if state officials did not address “gross mismanagement of the forests”.

The President said: “The destruction is catastrophic. God Bless them all.”

But he later renewed his attack on the Democrat regime, saying: “With proper management, we can stop the devastation constantly going on in California.”

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