Death Toll Rises to 23 in California Wildfire After 14 Bodies Found

November 11, 2018 Updated: November 11, 2018

PARADISE, Calif.—The charred remains of 14 more people have been found in and around a Northern California town overrun by flames from a massive wildfire, officials said Nov. 10, raising the death toll to at least 23.

The bodies were recovered in and around Paradise, a mountain community some 90 miles north of Sacramento that has been left devastated by the Camp Fire, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Scott Maclean said.

Maclean said no details were immediately available about the circumstances of the deaths and that the victims’ badly burned condition would make identification difficult.

The Camp Fire burned down more than 6,700 homes and businesses in Paradise, more structures than any other California wildfire on record, and the death toll, which could still rise, also makes it one of the deadliest.

Only the Griffith Park Fire in 1933 and Tunnel Fire in 1991 have claimed more lives.

Several of the bodies discovered earlier this week were found in or near burned out cars, police have said. The flames descended on Paradise so fast that many people were forced to abandon their vehicles and run for their lives down the sole road through the mountain town.

An additional 35 people have been reported missing and three firefighters have been injured. It was not immediately clear if any of the missing were among those found dead.

As of the afternoon on Nov. 10, the Camp Fire had blackened more than 100,000 acres at the edge of the Plumas National Forest. Crews had cut containment lines around about 20 percent of the blaze.

About 500 miles to the south, the Woolsey Fire burning in the foothills above Malibu doubled in size over the night on Nov. 9 into Nov. 10, threatening thousands of homes after triggering mandatory evacuation orders for a quarter million people in the upscale beach city as well as other communities in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

The fire has destroyed at least 177 homes and other structures with a full count still under way, and has now charred more than 83,000 acres as of late Nov. 10, officials said in a release.

“Our firefighters have been facing some extreme, tough fire conditions that they said that they’ve never seen in their lives,” said Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby.

Epoch Times Photo
A firefighter stands in the debris of a home destroyed by the Woolsey Fire in Malibu, California, U.S. November 10, 2018. (Eric Thayer/Reuters)

Two Bodies Found in Malibu

He said crews hoped to take advantage of a lull in the fierce Santa Ana winds driving the flames on Nov. 10.

All 13,000 residents of Malibu, which is 30 miles west of downtown Los Angeles, were told to get out on Nov. 9.

Two bodies were discovered in the community on Nov. 10 but it was too early to determine if they died from the Woolsey fire or another cause, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials said.

The Woolsey Fire broke out on Nov. 8 in Ventura County near Los Angeles and quickly jumped the 101 Freeway, a major north-south artery, in several places.

On Friday, it crossed the Santa Monica Mountains toward Malibu, where flames driven by wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour raced down hillsides and through canyons toward multimillion dollar homes.

Early on Nov. 10, flames approached Malibu’s Pepperdine University, a private residential college with 7,700 students, where many remained sheltered on the main campus.

School officials told the students that they have been assured by fire officials that the university’s buildings were built to withstand fire.

Among those forced to flee the Malibu area were celebrities including Lady Gaga and Kim Kardashian, who said on Twitter that flames had damaged the home she shares in nearby Calabasas with Kanye West.

In Ventura County, most of the town of Thousand Oaks was ordered to evacuate, adding to the anguish days after a gunman killed 12 people in a shooting rampage at a bar.

President Donald Trump, weighing in on the emergency during a trip to France, sent blessing to the firefighters, the families of the victims, and everyone affected. The president also advised Californians to abide by evacuation orders.

“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,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Trump blamed the intensity of the fires on “gross mismanagement of the forests.” Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has previously echoed Trump’s concern. Zinke specifically blamed litigation by environmentalist groups for preventing authorities from actively managing forests and clearing the dead timber and brush that serve as fuel for wildfires.

“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”

By Stephen Lam in Paradise. Epoch Times staff writer Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.