The death toll in the Camp Fire in Northern California has risen to 23 with the discovery Saturday of 14 more sets of remains, Butte County Sheriff and Coroner Kory Honea told reporters.
Honea said 10 of the victims were recovered from the fire-ravaged town of Paradise. He said seven people were found in homes, and three were outside. Of the remaining four, two were in cars and two were in houses in an area known as Concow.
Saturday brought a break in the fierce winds that have whipped the three major wildfires in California that have destroyed a record number of buildings and displaced more than 300,000 people.
But officials know the gusts will be back Sunday and most evacuation orders remain in place.
“Mother Nature has given us a short reprieve … but we know tomorrow Mother Nature’s gonna turn her fan back on and the winds are going to start blowing,” Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen told reporters. He said he cautioned his firefighters and the public not to be lulled by the better weather Saturday.
“Stay vigilant,” he said.
Fire has killed nine people in Northern California and possibly two in Southern California. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Chief John Benedict said the charred remains of two people were found in a car in Malibu, but homicide investigators were still working the case.
Winds could gust as high as 30 to 50 mph, depending on elevation, on Sunday, officials said. Much of the state hasn’t seen rain in more than a month, according to CNN meteorologists, and the dry vegetation has only served to fuel the fires.
The Camp Fire is the largest of the three major fires, swelling to 105,000 acres by Saturday morning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire. It is the most destructive blaze in the state’s modern history. The Woolsey Fire doubled in size overnight, growing to 70,000 acres. The Hill Fire was at 4,500 acres.
President Donald Trump blamed the wildfires on the “gross mismanagement of the forests” in a tweet early Saturday. “Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!” he said. In another tweet sent Saturday he wrote: “Our hearts are with those fighting the fires, the 52,000 who have evacuated, and the families of the 11 who have died. The destruction is catastrophic. God bless them all.”
Fire officials estimate the number of people forced from their homes statewide is more than 300,000; in Los Angeles County it is 170,000.
Firefighters are struggling to put down the flames. The Camp Fire is 20% contained, while the Woolsey Fire is just 5% contained. The Hill Fire was 25% contained.
In Northern California, nearly 7,000 structures have been destroyed, including 80% to 90% of the homes in Paradise, north of Sacramento, according to officials. In Los Angeles and Ventura counties, a significant number of homes were destroyed or damaged, fire officials said.
Scorched hillsides and damaged power lines are seen along the Pacific Coast Highway near Leo Carrillo State Beach in Malibu, California, on Saturday, November 10, after the Woosley Fire tore through the area overnight. The Ventura County Fire Department said the Woolsey Fire had burned around 35,000 acres and that evacuation orders were issued for roughly 88,000 homes in Ventura and Los Angeles Counties.—CNN