Death Toll Rises to 50 in California Wildfires as New Blaze Breaks Out: It's 'Absolutely Chaotic'
Authorities in Northern California announced on Tuesday that they found six bodies in a Paradise home, bringing the death toll in the massive state’s wildfires to 50.
The Camp Fire broke out in Butte County on Thursday, killing at least 48 people, burning through 130,000 acres and destroying more than 7,500 homes by Tuesday, CalFire reported. Miles away, the Woolsey Fire continued to burn outside Los Angeles, claiming two lives and spreading across more than 97,000 acres, according to CalFire.
“It really seems like we are chasing it, it moves so fast, so aggressive. And the fire behavior is just so intense,” Mike Grosenbach, a Los Angeles County firefighter, told CBS News of the Woolsey Fire. As some evacuations were lifted in the area, many survivors returned home only to be told to leave again.
“It’s terrible,” Alex Goodwin, of Hidden Valley, told CBS of the Woolsey Fire. “We evacuated, thought the danger was done, and then of course came back thinking it was safe … and it’s terrifying.”
Meanwhile, survivors of the massive Camp Fire — the deadliest blaze in the state’s history — continued to search for their missing loved ones in the ruins of Paradise. John Warner has been searching for his parents for days, even handing out flyers to every person he encounters — including Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea.
“I’m looking for my grandparents. I know you’re doing everything you can, but you need to do more,” he said according to USA Today, noting that he was hopeful that his grandparents are alive. “My grandpa made it through World War II. I wouldn’t put it past him to get in his old truck and drive himself out of there.”
By Tuesday, the Hill Fire — burning in Ventura County — had spread across more than 4,500 acres but was 92 percent contained, according to CalFire. However, firefighters in Southern California have been battling a new blaze: the Sierra Fire.
The Sierra Fire broke out in Fontana, about 50 miles from downtown Los Angeles, overnight and has burned through nearly 150 acres, according to NBC News. Fortunately, firefighters were able to gain some control over the blaze. Although no evacuations have been ordered due to the Sierra Fire, people rushed to flee their homes, backing up traffic in the area, according to the Los Angeles Times.
As the first trio of fires close in on a week of burning, survivors have blamed state and city officials for not warning them about th blazes sooner. Christina Taft, whose mother is missing, said authorities “didn’t do enough” to notify the 67-year-old.
“She didn’t expect it to be that bad,” Taft told NBC News. “She expected that someone would be calling, or something, if it got bad. But they didn’t. They were negligent. They just let them go. There is a reason all these people are dead.”
On Monday, Honea struggled to soothe grieving survivors as they spoke of their missing loved ones at a public meeting on Monday.
“I understand it was absolutely chaotic,” Honea said of the evacuating areas. “I will probably never be able to give you an answer that satisfies you.”