Hell in Paradise: fire crews in grim search for Californias dead

Saul Bowman
November 14, 2018

The Camp Fire in Northern California has killed 23 people and burned 108,000 acres.

Three separate fires have scorched more than 52,610 hectares, forcing President Donald Trump to declare a state of emergency. "Winds are already blowing", Chief Daryl Osby of the Los Angeles County Fire Department said. Those fatalities added to California's growing wildfire-related death toll.

"There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor", Trump tweeted.

It has consumed around 83,000 acres, destroyed at least 177 buildings and was 10 percent contained, Cal Fire said Sunday.

An AFP journalist saw recovery team workers discover, bag and drive away two bodies in the Paradise area on Sunday, and the death toll looked set to rise further with scores more people still unaccounted for.

At a news conference late on Sunday, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said the bodies of five people had been found in their burned-out homes and a sixth was found inside a vehicle. She's in Paradise, a town of 2,7000 people that's been decimated by the so-called Camp Fire.

Meanwhile, around 250,000 people have been ordered to evacuate their homes in the state capital Sacramento and southern California - as well as Hollywood hotspot Malibu.

During the course of the last few days, Southern California was engulfed in blazing flames which forced several celebrities as well as commoners to leave their homes.

The fire is said to be the third deadliest ones ever seen and has burned down the paradise lands of many.

Firefighters took advantage of a brief calm overnight to make headway against the multiple blazes, but conditions were expected to be hellish on Sunday with winds reaching as high as 70 miles (110 kilometers) an hour.

Firefighters used a respite from strong winds on Saturday to drop fire retardants to strengthen fire lines.

The Poker singer tweeted out her prayers and condolences to everyone affected by the fire along with her thanks to the fire and police department for their efforts.

Berkeley and his wife, Robyn Berkeley, choked back tears as they recounted their ordeal holding back a 100-foot wall of flames and then repeatedly beating back hot spots that continued to flare up throughout the night and next day. Authorities said they were bringing in cadaver dogs, two portable morgue units from the military and an additional 160 search and rescue personnel to help find human remains.

Huge plumes of smoke rose in the fire area, which stretches miles from the northwest corner of Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley to the Malibu coast.

That change has impacted the ability to move firefighting resources around the state, officials said.

Later Saturday, Mr. Trump struck a more sympathetic tone on the unfolding crisis in California, praising the firefighters and offering condolences to the victims.

"With proper Forest Management, we can stop the devastation constantly going on in California".

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