SEVERE WX : Winter Weather Advisory View Alerts

Dogs and Portable Morgues: Search Intensifies in Camp Fire Zone

Five days after flames all but obliterated the Northern California town of Paradise, population 27,000, officials were unsure of the exact number of missing. But the death toll was all but certain to rise.

Posted: Nov 13, 2018 10:06 AM

By MARTHA MENDOZA and GILLIAN FLACCUS , Associated Press

PARADISE, Calif. (AP) — Authorities moved to set up a rapid DNA-analysis system and bring in cadaver dogs, mobile morgues and more search teams in an intensified effort to find and identify victims of the deadliest wildfire in California history, an inferno that killed at least 42 people.

Five days after flames all but obliterated the Northern California town of Paradise, population 27,000, officials were unsure of the exact number of missing. But the death toll was all but certain to rise.

"I want to recover as many remains as we possibly can, as soon as we can. Because I know the toll it takes on loved ones," Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said Monday night as he announced the discovery of 13 more dead.

More than a dozen coroner search-and-recovery teams looked for bodies across the apocalyptic landscape that was once Paradise, while anxious relatives visited shelters and called police and hospitals in hopes of finding loved ones.

Lisa Jordan drove 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) from Yakima, Washington, to search for her uncle, Nick Clark, and his wife, Anne, who lived in Paradise. Anne Clark has multiple sclerosis and cannot walk. Jordan said no one seemed to know whether they were able to get out or whether their house was still standing.

"I'm staying hopeful," she said. "Until the final word comes, you keep fighting against it."

Authorities said they were bringing in two mobile morgue units from the military, requesting an additional 150 search-and-rescue personnel, and seeking the setup of a rapid DNA system to speed the analysis of remains.

The flames were so fierce that they melted metal. In some cases, search crews found only bones or bone fragments, which were duly put in body bags. Investigators are consulting forensic anthropologists for help in identifying the remains.

Chaplains accompanied some coroner search teams that visited dozens of addresses belonging to people reported missing. No cars in the driveway was a considered a good sign, one car a little more ominous and multiple burned-out vehicles more reason for worry.

Meanwhile, state investigators trying to establish the cause of the inferno appeared to be zeroing in on Pacific Gas & Electric Co. power lines.

A landowner near where the blaze began, Betsy Ann Cowley, said PG&E notified her the day before the blaze that crews needed to come onto her property because the utility's wires were sparking. Investigators have since declared the area a crime scene.

PG&E had no comment on the landowner's account but acknowledged last week that it was having problems with its transmission lines in the area just before the fire erupted.

More than 5,000 firefighters battling the blaze made gains overnight, slowing the flames' advance toward Oroville, a town of about 19,000 people. The fire, which has charred 195 square miles (505 square kilometers) and destroyed more than 6,400 homes since it started Thursday, was reported 30 percent contained.

At the other end of the state, in Southern California, firefighters continued making progress against a blaze that killed two people in star-studded Malibu and destroyed over 400 structures.

Crews lit backfires and extended containment lines overnight. Officials said they expected to have the more than 146-square-mile (378-square-kilometer) fire fully contained by Thursday.

The fire burned through part of a former research site that once housed a nuclear reactor and has been undergoing a years-long waste cleanup. But measurements taken over the weekend found no elevated levels of radiation, the state Department of Toxic Substances control said in a statement.

The 42 dead in Northern California surpassed the deadliest single fire on record, a 1933 blaze in Griffith Park in Los Angeles. A series of wildfires in Northern California's wine country last fall killed 44 people and destroyed more than 5,000 homes.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 195884

Reported Deaths: 2590
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah38744593
Washington25768233
Marion22259309
Clackamas17723214
Lane13154149
Jackson10959141
Deschutes920075
Umatilla823684
Linn503468
Yamhill450376
Klamath449464
Polk379453
Malheur353063
Josephine337271
Douglas330971
Benton313320
Jefferson222237
Coos209835
Columbia176029
Union145123
Lincoln138921
Wasco138428
Hood River119631
Crook114022
Morrow111316
Clatsop9958
Baker96014
Tillamook6523
Curry64710
Grant5236
Lake4557
Harney3498
Wallowa1855
Gilliam631
Sherman581
Wheeler321
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3769827

Reported Deaths: 62699
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles123756124120
Riverside2997934594
San Bernardino2972614724
San Diego2791453742
Orange2712965031
Santa Clara1190982098
Kern1093201376
Sacramento1051641693
Fresno1019871690
Alameda881571668
Ventura811021017
San Joaquin733101394
Contra Costa68976805
Stanislaus623101061
Tulare49830840
Monterey43662382
San Mateo42063570
San Francisco36808546
Santa Barbara34391459
Solano33011253
Merced31919461
Sonoma30071321
Imperial28516729
Kings23017246
Placer22720293
San Luis Obispo21308260
Madera16483242
Santa Cruz16275206
Marin14079227
Yolo13938211
Shasta12175226
Butte12140192
El Dorado10193113
Napa989182
Sutter9445113
Yuba628549
San Benito607463
Lassen570624
Tehama559063
Nevada475575
Tuolumne413967
Humboldt413542
Mendocino412749
Amador366747
Lake348943
Glenn240125
Siskiyou225525
Colusa223616
Calaveras213654
Inyo142838
Del Norte13988
Mono12844
Plumas7186
Modoc5014
Mariposa4507
Trinity4025
Sierra1120
Alpine880
Unassigned360
Medford
Mostly Cloudy
63° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 63°
Brookings
Partly Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 52°
Crater Lake
Mostly Cloudy
63° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 63°
Grants Pass
Cloudy
63° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 63°
Klamath Falls
Partly Cloudy
56° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 56°
Cool & windy Wednesday with shower chances
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events