Camp Fire Death Toll Continues to Climb, Officials Assess Damage

The Camp Fire's passage has gutted thousands of homes and hundreds of businesses around the Northern California town of Paradise, with authorities still searching for the casualties among the ruins.

Posted: Nov. 12, 2018 11:51 AM
Updated: Nov. 12, 2018 6:50 PM

CHICO, Calif. —

UPDATE, 6:30pm Monday, November 12:  13 more bodies have been identified in the Camp Fire burn area today.   That brings the total to 42.  It also makes this the deadliest wildfire in California history.  The Butte County Sheriff's office has positively identified 3 victims. 

The fire is now 30% contained and 117,000 acres.

UPDATE: By Monday morning, fire officials estimated that the Camp Fire covered 113,000 acres and was 25 percent contained. Casualties from the fire had climbed to 29 people killed.

In total, fire officials say that 15,500 structures are threatened, 6,453 homes are destroyed, 36 homes are damaged, 260 businesses are destroyed, 22 businesses damaged and 389 other minor structures destroyed.

Cal Fire expects full containment by November 30, 2018.

In terms of crew, Cal Fire says there are 4,555 total personnel assigned to the Camp Fire. There are 571 engines, 59 water tenders, 21 helicopters, 91 hand crews, 88 dozers and a number of air tankers.

Meanwhile, members of the community are rallying to help those displaced or harmed by the Camp Fire's brutality. Tri Counties bank has started a Camp Fire fund with an initial deposit of $25,000 to benefit the victims.

There are multiple other places to donate funds or to drop off needed items in the Chico area.


UPDATE: Nine fatalities are confirmed as a result of the Camp Fire near Chico. Around 35 people are reported missing.

This fire is being called one of the most destructive wildifre's in California's history. It is currently burning 90,000 acres of land.

52,000 people had to evacuate, and more than 6,000 homes have been destroyed. 80-90 percent of homes in Paradise, California are destroyed by the Camp Fire. The fire is only 5 contained at this time.

(Updated 11/10/18 at 10 a.m.)


UPDATE: A sixth fatality is now confirmed as a result of the Camp Fire, the Butte County Sheriff said on Friday afternoon. While the body was found in the ruins of Paradise, authorities will not yet disclose an exact location.

Meanwhile, CAL FIRE says that the fire is now burning on both sides of the Feather River, south of the Jarbo Gap. It has also destroyed the Honey Run Bridge in Chico.

One small bit of good news emerged throughout the day — town councilor Melissa Schuster confirmed that the Feather River Hospital in Paradise was not completely destroyed by the fire's passage, just damaged. Some buildings on the campus did burn, but the primary structure remains standing.

Paradise High School and the Town Hall are also reported to still be standing.

Hundreds of people continue to look for loved ones that are still unaccounted for following the rushed evacuation. Many of those people are elderly, some disabled, often without cell phones or computers even prior to the evacuation.

(Updated 11/9/18 at 5:30 p.m.)


UPDATE: At least five people are confirmed dead from the Camp Fire, according to a statement from the Butte County Sheriff's Office (BCSO).

Investigators came upon the bodies on Thursday around Edgewood Lane in the devastated town of Paradise. BCSO said that they believe the victims were in vehicles that "were overcome by the Camp Fire."

Due to the extent of the victims' burn injuries, investigators have yet to identify the bodies. BCSO said that autopsies will be conducted to determine the circumstances of those deaths and begin identifying the victims.

"The Butte County Coroner's Office has formed an interagency team to investigate and identify additional fatalitis. We understand that many people are very anxious to locate loved ones and we encourage residents to check safeandwell.org, check with family and friends, and if you're still not able to locate loved ones, please contact BCSO at (530) 538-7322 to request a welfare check or to file a missing person's report," BCSO said.

(Updated 11/9/18 at 11:45 a.m.)


UPDATE: The devastating Camp Fire has grown to 70,000 acres and is now 5 percent contained, Butte County CAL FIRE said on Friday morning. Updated fire maps show the fire line encroaching on the outskirts of Chico.

California Office of Emergency Services said they will be having another press conference at 9 a.m. to update on what state agencies are doing now to combat the fire.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea also reiterated that there is a possibility of civilian casualties — however he could not yet comment on the specifics.

Cal Fire officials said the 5 percent containment is due to a containment wall built along Highway 32, blocking the fire from spreading to Chico. Now firefighters are working to build containment walls along the north to the Magalia area and south along the Concow area.

Firefighters worked throughout the night battling the Camp Fire on multiple fronts.

Many people have reported being unable to contact their loved ones in the area since the evacuations began in earnest. For an ongoing list of the missing, visit the page here.

(Updated 11/9/18 at 9:20 a.m.)


UPDATE: “Be advised we have received confirmation from units on the ground in Butte County that Feather River Hospital has been destroyed by fire,” said John Lord, Associate Director of the Sierra-Sacramento Vally EMS Agency via Mike Mangas of Mercy Medical Center.

(Updated 11/8/18 at 5:30 p.m.)


UPDATE: In a live press conference on Thursday afternoon, authorities delivered updates on the Camp Fire's seemingly unstoppable progress since that morning — including an acknowledgment that there have been unconfirmed reports of fatalities from the fire.

"This is a very serious fire, a rapidly moving fire," said Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea.

Sheriff Honea described working within the town of Paradise that morning as the fire quickly spread toward the town, with heavy black smoke filling the air like a solid wall. "Although it was early morning, it seemed like midnight," Honea said.

As deputies worked to issue evacuation orders, they reportedly received 1,038 individual 911 calls related to the fire. Hundreds were from people reporting that they could not get away or had loved ones that they could not reach. Honea said that deputies had addressed roughly 200 of those calls — with 400 remaining unresolved.

CAL FIRE officials confirmed that two firefighters have been injured in the response. There have been no confirmed civilian injuries — however, Sheriff Honea said that there have been multiple reports of potential fatalities. Deputies are still working to confirm those reports, but in many cases cannot get to the reported areas safely.

Evacuation order remain in effect for the communities of Magalia, Paradise, Butte Creek Canyon, Concow, Polga, Yankee Hill, Jarbo Gap and a number of surrounding areas. As is often the case, some people refused to heed the initial evacuation orders.

"Lives are on the line when we issue these orders. If you stay we can't guarantee that we can get to you," Honea said.

Sheriff Honea also said that he had requested aid from the Governor's office and surrounding agencies.

The fire began around 6:30 a.m. on Thursday near Jarbo Gap and Polga. The first firefighters on the scene reported more than ten acres aflame with "critical rate of spread," and issues accessing the fire. Stiff winds quickly caused those flames to race and spread westward toward Paradise.

Although specifics are not yet available, CAL FIRE confirmed significant destruction of property in the area — with "several hundred" structures destroyed.

"Looters will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Honea said. He also admonished business-owners against price-gouging evacuees forced to flee to neighboring towns.

According to PG&E there are 34,000 customers are without power in Butte and Plumas counties due to the Camp Fire. For safety, PG&E has also shut off natural gas service to all 12,000 gas customers in Paradise.

Additionally, Butte College's main campus in Oroville is closed Nov. 8 and 9. Classes schedule tonight at the Chico Center, Skyway Center and Cosmetology Center are cancelled Nov. 8 and 9. The Glenn Center will remain open. The College's main campus is being used as a staging area for Cal Fire.

(Updated 11/8/18 at 4:30 p.m.


UPDATE: California Highway Patrol (CHP) reports that the Camp Fire is working its way westward toward the city of Chico. Fire officials have now confirmed that the fire covers an estimated 18,000 acres — still with no containment.

Troopers are working to close down all northbound traffic on SR-99 to prevent access into Chico. CHP is also stopping all northbound traffic on Hwy 99 at Hwy 149. All lanes of Hwy 99 from Skyway south to Hwy 149 are being turned for southbound traffic fleeing the fire.

"It's a very dangerous and very serious situation," Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told The Associated Press. "I'm driving through fire as we speak. We're doing everything we can to get people out of the affected areas."

The Associated Press also reports that some evacuees were forced to abandon their vehicles as they fled the scene of the fast-moving fire.

Children evacuated from the Paradise School District have been taken to the Mormon Church of Chico located at 2430 Mariposa Avenue, Chico.

"The whole lower side of Paradise is completely engulfed in flames right now," said Kevin Winstad, a Paradise resident who evacuated to Chico. "The Pacific, Princeton area, Feather River Hospital — all is engulfed in flames right now. Not one home will be left standing."

Meanwhile, the number of evacuation zones continues to multiply, based on frequent updates from the Butte County Sheriff's Office.

(Updated 11/8/18 at 2 p.m.)


UPDATE: Authorities now estimate that the Camp Fire covers more than 8,000 acres with no containment.

Butte College in the town of Oroville has been closed as a precaution, and will remain closed for the rest of the day. The Chico, Glenn, and Skyway Center branches remain open.

Oroville and Chico remain the primary destinations for a mass exodus of evacuees fleeing the evacuated area of Paradise.

Evacuation orders have been added along Highway 70 from Concow south including all of Yankee Hill on both sides of the highway. Paradise and multipe surrounding areas remain on evacuation orders.

(Updated 11/8/18 at 12 p.m.)


INITIAL REPORT: Authorities have ordered the evacuation of an entire town in Northern California after a runaway wildfire began rushing toward the town. At last report, the Camp Fire covered 5,000 acres and has no containment.

Paradise is a community of more than 26,000 residents, located just east of Chico in Butte County. By 9 a.m. on Thursday morning, authorities had ordered the evacuation of the entire town.

The fire has grown so quickly that details remain sparse at this time. Authorities had prioritized the evacuation of Feather River Hospital in Paradise — presumably because the hospital lay directly in the fire's path.

Evacuees are being ushered to the nearby towns of Oroville and Chico, where a evacuation shelter is now open.

Police have opened up both directions of highways for traffic fleeing the fire, with as many as five lanes of traffic all headed away from the fire. Evacuees described a "tunnel of flames" as they fled the area near the hospital in Paradise, and a wall of black smoke is visible on the horizon from the outskirts of Chico.

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