The Latest: California fire deadliest in 100 years

CHICO, Calif. (AP) — The Latest on the wildfires in California (all times local):

6 p.m.

Wildfire experts say the Northern California wildfire that has killed at least 48 is the deadliest in a century.

California officials say the fire burning in a rural area far north of San Francisco killed more people than any other blaze in the state’s recorded history.

The U.S. government doesn’t closely track civilian casualties, and records from long ago are incomplete.

Stephen Pyne, an Arizona State University professor and fire historian, said Wednesday the California fire certainly is the deadliest since 1918, when a wildfire in northern Minnesota killed an estimated 1,000 people.

That fire prompted the federal government to start developing firefighting practices and policies. ___

3:45 p.m.

A massive Northern California wildfire has forced local high schools to postpone football playoffs for a week.

But Paradise High School forfeited its first-round game after nearly all its players lost their homes. The 8-2 Bobcats earned a No. 3 seeding in the playoffs after finishing last in its division last year.

The team was scheduled to play last Friday. Its competitor, Red Bluff High School, offered to forfeit and allow Paradise to move on to the second round.

Paradise head coach Rick Prinz turned down the offer, saying it was best to end the school’s season and focus on recovering from the wildfire that destroyed most of the town.

The 49ers surprised the team Monday and brought it to San Francisco to watch its game against the New York Giants.


3:20 p.m.

At least two dozen people who were trapped by a wall of fire in Northern California survived by plunging into a cold lake.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports Tuesday that the people plunged into the Concow Reservoir after flames surrounded their homes in a community outside the decimated town of Paradise. At least a dozen were in a caravan of vehicles that got cut off by the fire last Thursday.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Division Chief Garrett Sjolund says firefighters helped fleeing residents, distributing fire shelters to those who couldn’t stand the water. The shelters are a last resort for protection against flames.

Concow resident Peggy Moak says she and others pulled people out of the lake with a canoe.

Authorities say several of those in the reservoir were hospitalized, some with serious burns.


1:50 p.m.

A utility accused in a lawsuit of igniting a deadly Northern California wildfire has acknowledged that it contacted a customer about a power line on her property.

Betsy Ann Cowley says Pacific Gas & Electric Co. emailed her the day before the blaze ignited last Thursday about working on some lines on her property. She says the utility had told her it had problems with sparks.

PG&E spokesman Paul Doherty said in a statement Tuesday evening that the utility hadn’t seen anything “that includes a discussion with the customer in question about ‘sparks’ and PG&E infrastructure.”

He says the company reached out about future work on a line that had been shut down.

The cause of the fire that killed dozens and largely destroyed the town of Paradise is under investigation. People whose homes were destroyed sued PG&E, accusing it of negligence and blaming it for the fire.


1:25 p.m.

Officials say they’re looking to bring in mobile homes for thousands of people who have lost their houses to a Northern California wildfire.

Mark Ghilarducci of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services says U.S. and state officials also are looking into hotels and rental properties to house people driven from the town of Paradise and neighboring communities.

The blaze displaced 52,000 people and destroyed more than 7,600 homes. It killed dozens of people, with more still missing.

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said Wednesday that temporary schools and hospitals will be brought in because rebuilding Paradise will take time.

He says the town of 27,000 won’t be rebuilt the way it was and that “we will all have to work together to find a new normal.”


1:25 p.m.

Army National Guard members are searching a home that burned down in a Northern California wildfire and the surrounding area for remains.

The property is entirely burned to the ground, with giant heaps of bent and burned metal covering the ground. Guard members on Wednesday lifted up and moved metal to search underneath.

Pink and blue chalk drawings of a cat and a flower are still visible on the concrete driveway, one of the few parts of the property still intact. A scorched toy truck also sits on the driveway.

The Guard is focusing its search on homes where family and friends have reported people missing.

The state’s deadliest wildfire has leveled the town of Paradise and killed dozens, with more still missing.


12:55 p.m.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is visiting the aftermath of California’s deadliest wildfire and says it’s not the time to “point fingers.”

Zinke lamented the destruction Wednesday and says there are many factors in wildfires, including rising temperatures.

He was visiting the town of Paradise with Gov. Jerry Brown days after President Donald Trump blamed “poor” forest management for the fire. Brown says climate change is the greater source of the problem.

Brown says he spoke with Trump on Wednesday and that the president has pledged “the full resources of the federal government.”

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long called the blaze “one of the worst disasters that I’ve seen in my career.”

Brock said people affected by the fire can start requesting federal assistance.


12:55 p.m.

A team of Army National Guard members is looking for bodies at houses where officials have reports of missing people following a massive Northern California wildfire.

Butte County Deputy Sheriff Steve Collins says the number of missing is “fluctuating every day” as people are located or remains are found.

The state’s deadliest wildfire has killed dozens of people and largely leveled the town of Paradise.

He urged anyone who had previously contacted the sheriff’s department about missing people but had since found their loved ones to call back.

Dozens of soldiers in National Guard uniforms were working Wednesday with anthropological teams. Collins says when anything resembling human remains is found, the coroner’s office takes over.


12:15 p.m.

President Donald Trump is praising firefighters and first responders for an “incredible job” tackling California’s deadliest wildfire.

Trump tweeted Wednesday that he had been briefed by Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who are in California.

Trump wrote: “Thank you to the great Firefighters, First Responders and @fema for the incredible job they are doing w/ the California Wildfires. Our Nation appreciates your heroism, courage & genius. God Bless you all!”

Trump previously blamed “poor” forest management for the fires. California Gov. Jerry Brown says federal and state governments must do more forest management but says climate change is the greater source of the problem.

Dozens of people have been confirmed dead in the wildfires, with more still missing.


12:15 p.m.

Authorities have released the names of about 100 people who are still missing after a massive wildfire in Northern California, including many in their 80s and 90s.

The Butte County sheriff’s office made the names public late Tuesday, but spokeswoman Megan McMann says the list is incomplete.

She says the detectives are concerned they’ll be overwhelmed by calls from relatives if the entire list is released, so they’re putting out the names “in batches.” She says the list would be updated.

It comes as additional crews joined the search and the death toll climbed to 48 in California’s deadliest wildfire.


10:45 a.m.

Authorities say six people have been arrested on suspicion of looting homes evacuated when a deadly fire swept through a Northern California town and several surrounding communities.

The Butte County Sheriff’s Office says deputies on Monday found two men hiding inside home in the town of Paradise with a .45 caliber handgun and drugs. Deputies also found an ATV, an AR-15 rifle and tools the men are suspected of stealing.

The office says deputies arrested two other men Tuesday with a laptop computer that didn’t belong to them.

A few hours later Tuesday, two more people were arrested after they were spotted in a motorhome reported stolen in the neighboring town of Magalia.

The fire that started Nov. 8 killed at least 48 people, displaced 52,000 and has destroyed 7,600 homes.


10:30 a.m.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. shares have plunged more than 20 percent in Wednesday trading after the utility said in a regulatory filing that it could face a significant financial hit if its equipment is found to be the cause of the deadliest fire in California history.

At least 48 people have been confirmed dead in the Northern California fire that started last Thursday and leveled the town of Paradise. Victims of the fire have filed a lawsuit accusing PG&E of causing the blaze.

PG&E told state regulators last week that it experienced a problem with a transmission line in the area of the fire just before the blaze erupted.

In filing late Tuesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, PG&E said it had liability insurance of $1.4 billion for wildfire events through July 31, 2019.

If its equipment is to blame, the utility warned the costs could exceed the insurance coverage and have a “material impact” on its financial condition.

PG&E’s stock is trading at its lowest level in more than a decade after losing about half its value in the past four days.


10 a.m.

Authorities say they are investigating a third apparent fire-related death in the burn zone of a Southern California wildfire.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said Wednesday that human remains were found in a burned home in the suburban Agoura Hills area of the county.

Two deaths were previously linked to the so-called Woolsey Fire. Two adults were found last week in a car overtaken by flames. They have not been identified.

In Northern California, at least 48 people have been confirmed dead in a fire that also left hundreds missing.


9:30 a.m.

The Los Angeles County coroner’s office says it is responding to reports of human remains found within the burn zone of a Southern California wildfire.

Coroner’s spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani says Wednesday that the body was found in the Agoura Hills area of Los Angeles County.

She was unable to confirm whether the body was burned.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and fire information officers were not immediately able to confirm the death and whether it was related to the fire.

Two deaths were previously linked to the so-called Woolsey Fire that started last Thursday.

A pair of adults were found last week in a car overtaken by flames. They have not been identified.

In Northern California, at least 48 people have been confirmed dead in a fire that also started Thursday. Hundreds remain missing.


7:50 a.m.

A fire official says fire crews aided by cooler weather and diminishing winds have managed to slow the spread of a massive Northern California blaze that killed at least 48 people.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Scott McLean said Wednesday the blaze has charred 210 square miles (544 square kilometers) and that it is one-third contained.

He says strong winds have subsided and humidity is up, helping more than 5,600 firefighters.

McLean says the fire that leveled the town of Paradise “is looking really good at the moment.”

He says aircraft including 21 helicopters are helping in the effort to halt the fire that destroyed 7,600 homes.

But McLean says smoke is heavy and low to the ground and that could affect visibility and hamper their efforts.


7:40 a.m.

Gusty Santa Ana winds continue to fan Southern California wildfires but forecasters say a change in the weather is coming.

The fire west of Los Angeles that killed two people flared again before sunrise Wednesday but the flames are devouring vegetation in rugged, uninhabited mountains.

The National Weather Service says winds will weaken and critical fire danger warnings will expire by evening.

Some evacuations remain in place but thousands of residents have been allowed to return home. An estimated 435 buildings have been counted destroyed so far and assessments are continuing.

The fire has scorched more than 152 square miles (394 square kilometers) since last week and is 47 percent contained.

A new fire erupted late Tuesday in the Fontana area of San Bernardino County but firefighters reported good progress overnight, holding the blaze to 147 acres (59 hectares).


12 a.m.

A message board at a shelter for the many people who fled California’s deadliest wildfire is filled with photos of the missing, as well as pleas for any information about relatives and friends.

Authorities on Tuesday reported six more fatalities from the Northern California blaze, bringing the total number of dead so far to 48. They haven’t disclosed the total number still missing, but earlier in the week that figure was more than 200.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said a list of the missing would be released soon and that 100 National Guard troops would help teams already looking for remains.

As authorities increased efforts, people waited for any word on those still not found.

Greg Gibson was one of the people searching the message board Tuesday, hoping to find information about his neighbors. They’ve been reported missing, but he doesn’t know if they tried to escape or hesitated a few minutes longer than he did before fleeing Paradise, the town of 27,000 which was consumed last Thursday. About 7,700 homes were destroyed.

Categories: California News