- The death toll from the California wildfires had risen
to 59. On Wednesday, nine more bodies were recovered.
- The Camp Fire in northern California
destroyed an entire town in less than a day and has killed
at least 56 people, making it the deadliest fire in the state’s
history. Authorities said it was 40% contained on Thursday.
- The Woolsey Fire on the outskirts of LA has burned more than
150 square miles, and is 57% contained.
- The flames have been fueled by dry, hot conditions and strong
winds. Firefighters are making gains, and no more homes are under
- California wildfires are becoming so frequent and pervasive
that officials there say there’s almost no need for the term
“wildfire season” anymore.
The flames from California’s deadliest wildfire are
beginning to retreat into forested, unpopulated areas of the
state, but the death toll is still rising.
Eight new victims of the Camp Fire were found Wednesday, six of
them inside structures. That brings the total number of deaths
from the fire in northern California to 56. More than 130 people are still
missing, many of them elderly.
The fire continues to rage across Butte County, which is less
than 100 miles north of Sacramento, though it is now roughly
one-third contained. So far, it has scorched 218 square miles of
land, an area nearly the size of Chicago.
The other dangerous wildfire raging in California, the
Woolsey Fire, has burned more than 150 square miles in the hills
around Los Angeles. Residents of Malibu and other LA suburbs
whose houses were in the path of the flames are beginning to
return home to charred shells as firefighters strengthen their
hold on the flames. Two people were killed in the Woolsey fire
last Friday, and a third body was found in a
burned home in Agoura Hills on Wednesday, bringing the statewide
death toll from both fires to 59.
Already this year, 7,578 fires have burned across
California, fueled by hot, dry conditions and aggressive
winds. The causes of both the Woolsey and the Camp Fires are
still under investigation, but sparking power lines may have
played a role in Camp.
The Camp Fire is most deadly and destructive in California
The Camp Fire moved at a deadly pace when it broke
out on Thursday morning, sending the 27,000-resident town of
Paradise into flames within hours. That quick progression — the
flames spread at a pace of 80 football fields per
minute — made successful evacuations near impossible. At
least six people burned to death in their cars as they tried to
escape, the Butte County Sheriff’s Department said.
“The fire was so close I could feel it in my car through rolled
up windows,” Rita Miller, who fled Paradise with her disabled
mother told the Associated Press.
Other residents ran from the fire on foot, the
Sacramento Bee reported.
Coroner search teams are going house to house (or rather, from
plot to plot) in the burned-down town of Paradise to search for
victims. More than 450 people have been assigned to search for
human remains in the debris, the
Associated Press reported. Abandoned cars in driveways can be
a tell-tale sign that residents might not have escaped in time.
Sifting through the ashes, the teams sometimes only recover a few
remains of a fire victim to put in a body bag.
“The long bag looks almost empty as it’s carefully carried
out of the ruins and placed in a black hearse,” Gillian Flaccus
with the Associated Press
reported from Paradise on Monday night.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said the county is working with
anthropologists from California State University at Chico to help
identify bone fragments among ash in the area.
Fortunately, winds are settling, humidity is rising, and there’s
a potential for rain in the forecast next week. Those factors may
give firefighters a boost, but Cal Fire doesn’t expect the Camp
Fire to be fully extinguished until the end of November.
You can view fire damage from the Camp Fire on Cal Fire’s Structure Status
Map, and see evacuations on the official Camp Fire Evacuation Map. You
can also register yourself as safe or search for loved ones who
are missing using the Red Cross Safe and Well list online.
California Acting Gov. Gavin Newsom
declared a state of emergency in Butte County on Thursday and
sent a letter to President
Donald Trump and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
asking for federal assistance.
President Trump approved some federal assistance
for the California fires on Friday, but then threatened via
Twitter over the weekend that there may be “no more Fed
payments!” unless California forests are better managed. (The
federal government oversees 40% of California
Trump later said he approved an “expedited request” for a Major
Disaster Declaration, which allows people whose homes or places
of work were hit by the Woolsey or Camp Fire to apply for federal
“Wanted to respond quickly in order to alleviate some of the
incredible suffering going on,” Trump said in a tweet on Monday. “I
am with you all the way.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said in a
release that “assistance can include
grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to
cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help
individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the
Katie Canales/Business Insider
Smoke from the Camp Fire has blanketed wide swaths of Northern
California in a gray haze. The Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) says the air throughout much of the San Francisco Bay
Area is “unhealthy” to breathe.
Federal air monitors have suggested that older adults,
children, teens, and people with heart and lung conditions should
limit their time outside because of the high number of dangerously small pollutants
in the air. Some people have donned masks to protect their lungs.
The Woolsey fire has burned nearly 100,000 acres on the outskirts
The Woolsey Fire, fueled by fierce Santa Ana winds, has
destroyed an estimated 500-plus
structures, mostly homes. Over the last couple of days,
firefighters have strengthened their hold on the flames — the
fire is nearly 60% contained and growing at a slower pace than it
did over the weekend.
Red-flag warnings that
were in effect for southern California through Wednesday evening
have expired, giving firefighters a boost as the winds die
The Woolsey Fire has claimed three victims. Two burned bodies
were found in a “long, narrow” Malibu
driveway near Mulholland Highway, the Los Angeles County
Sheriff’s Department said. A
third victim was discovered near the wreckage of a home
in Agoura Hills.
At its peak, the fire forced over 275,000 people from their
homes. Carol Napoli, who lives at the Vallecito mobile home park
for seniors in Newbury Park, said the flames approached the park
so fast that an elderly friend in her 90s didn’t have time to
grab her oxygen tank before they bolted in a car.
“We drove through flames to get out,” Napoli told the Associated Press. “My
girlfriend was driving. She said, ‘I don’t know if I can do this
…’ Her son said, ‘Mom you have to, you have to drive through
The fire has burned at least 98,000 acres of land and threatened
mobile homes and celebrity mansions alike. Celebrities
like Gerard Butler, Miley Cyrus,
and Neil Young all lost their houses.
The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, the
country’s largest urban national park, was also hit: 83% of that
land has burned, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Flames and smoke sent bobcats and mountain lions in the
area scampering. The blaze also destroyed the storied filming
location of Western Town, where the shows “Westworld”
and “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” were
Cal Fire expects the Woolsey
Fire to be fully extinguished by the end of this coming weekend.
Residents are starting to stream back into sections of Malibu,
Thousand Oaks, and northern Topanga. You can view current fire
perimeters, evacuation updates, as well as shelter and donation
information on the Ventura County Emergency Information
site, the Ventura County Recovers site, and the
LA County Woolsey Fire site.
Another smaller fire in southern California, the Hill Fire,
charred over 4,500 acres but was nearly out (97% contained) by
Thursday. The Woolsey and Hill Fires both threatened the town of
Thousand Oaks, where residents were already reeling from a deadly
mass shooting in which 12 people were murdered.
Three-quarters of Thousand Oaks residents were under mandatory
evacuation orders over the weekend, according to the Associated Press.
Resident Cynthia Ball told the AP it was “like ‘welcome to
“If you were affected by the Woolsey or Hill fires, the Thousand
Oaks mass shooting, or both, you can call the Disaster Distress
Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text ‘TalkWithUs’ to 66746 for
emotional support and resources,” the LA County website reads.
Wildfires are no longer limited to one season
The flames in southern California have been fueled by hot, dry
conditions and spread by Santa Ana winds, which tend to
blow in from the desert in the fall months.
Firefighters are still racing to keep flames from charring
people’s homes, but as the LA Fire Department’s Eric Scott pointed
out on Twitter, some houses are better protected than others,
since green vegetation can help keep flames back.
Wildfire season in California used to run from late summer
through the fall. But as the planet heats up, higher-than-average
temperatures and drought conditions are becoming more common.
Meanwhile, developers continue to build homes in places that are
naturally prone to wildland fires.
“Whether it is to allow a rock star to build on a ridgeline
in Malibu or a manufactured-home community that nestles into the
foothills, the decision is the same and the consequences are the
same,” Char Miller, director of environmental analysis at Pomona
College, told the LA
Michelle Mark, Bryan Logan, Ellen Cranley, and Kelly
McLaughlin contributed reporting.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.