Death toll from California wildfires climbs to 44

Just yesterday the death toll from the California wildfires stood at 31, today it jumped up to 44 as search teams in northern California continue to identify new victims. All but two of the 44 deaths were caused by the Camp Fire which has now become the deadliest fire in state history. As many as 200 people are still missing. From the NY Times:

Search teams were scouring the devastated town of Paradise on Tuesday with the grim expectation of finding more bodies in the aftermath of the deadliest wildfire in California history.

Finding remains is a painstaking process that is often guided by cadaver dogs after an intense fire like the one that struck Paradise, where 42 people have been killed, 200 are still missing and much is reduced to ashes. Coroners and about dozens of other searchers have fanned out across the area, and two portable morgues are waiting to collect the dead.

President Trump addressed the wildfires today at the White House:

That’s an improvement over his tweet Saturday which blamed the fires on poor management and threatened to cut federal funding. Yesterday, Trump announced he was approving an expedited disaster declaration for California.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is scheduled to visit the state to see the damage caused by the fires but so far President Trump hasn’t said if he’ll do the same. I suspect if the death toll climbs substantially in the next few days, as seems possible, he may decide to plan a visit. Of course, you can imagine how a visit from Trump would be greeted in Malibu. That’s probably why he hasn’t announced it yet.

Meanwhile, both fires continue to burn and threaten other areas. Firefighters have the Camp Fire 30% contained and have prevented it, so far, from reaching other highly populated areas. But the Woolsey Fire near Malibu continues to present a challenge. From CBS News:

In Southern California, firefighters said the threat from the “Woolsey Fire” was far from over, CBS News correspondent Jamie Yuccas reports. Gusty Santa Ana winds continued to cause flare-ups overnight Monday, forcing firefighters to move from spot fire to spot fire.

Some 200,000 people remain under mandatory evacuation orders. Dry vegetation, low humidity and mountainous geography make it hard for crews to get the upper hand.

Cal Fire Battalion Chief Lucas Spelman told Yuccas that the cause of the fire has yet to be determined. “Sometimes it takes weeks and even months to actually put all that together,” he said.

As I pointed out yesterday, there are reports that both fires may have been started by shorted power lines, but that has yet to be confirmed.

Finally, here’s a CBS News report from last night which gives an overview of both fires: