Nov. 16 (UPI) — The death toll from California’s wildfires continues to grow. Authorities said late Thursday 66 people have now died as a result of the fierce fires.
The Camp Fire north of San Francisco has now killed at least 63 people, and the number of missing in Butte County has skyrocketed to 631, officials said.
Hundreds of searchers and cadaver dogs are sifting through debris trying to find remains in Paradise, Magalia and other cities. President Donald Trump is expected to visit California Saturday to meet with “individuals impacted by the wildfires,” The Sacramento Bee reported.
The Camp Fire started Nov. 8 from two sources of ignition. Its cause is under investigation.
The fire has so far destroyed 9,700 homes and 290 commercial buildings, Cal Fire said in an update Thursday. It’s burned 141,000 acres and is about 40 percent contained.
It’s already the largest and deadliest fire in California history.
Authorities created the list of missing based on phone calls from concerned friends or relatives. The identities of the dead will be released as their DNA is verified. Officials have tentatively identified 53 of the 63 dead.
“I want you to know, there are a lot of people displaced and … we’re finding a lot of people don’t know that we’re looking for them,” Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said. “The level of chaos we were dealing with was extraordinary.”
In Southern California, firefighters have gotten the Woolsey Fire 62 percent contained, Cal Fire said. It’s burned nearly 100,000 acres since it also began Nov. 8. Three people have died and three firefighters injured, bringing the toll from both fires to 66.
In Malibu, evacuation orders are slowly being lifted but many residents are finding it difficult to reach their neighborhoods because so many roads are still closed.
As the fires recede, authorities said they’re finding widespread power outages, gas leaks and water main issues.
“They all want to let people go home. That’s our goal, but we just can’t right now in certain areas and it’s for their safety,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Darren Harris said. “It’s for the safety of all these workers that you see behind me. It’s for the safety of all the first responders and second responders that are trying to bring infrastructure back to this community.”
The smaller Hill Fire is now virtually 100 percent contained after it burned more than 4,500 acres, destroyed 2 buildings and damaged 2 more.