The Latest: Family friend says woman in her 70s died in fire

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

11:40 a.m.

The body of woman who died in the massive Northern California wildfire was found in bed in a burned house in Concow.

A family friend said Ellen Walker, who was in her 70s, was sick and home alone when the fire began Thursday morning.

Nancy Breeding said Walker’s husband Lon was at work and had called a neighbor to knock on the door to get his wife to evacuate, but it’s unclear whether she was alert at the time.

Breeding said Walker’s family had assumed she escaped the inferno until authorities confirmed her death late Friday.


11:15 a.m.

A celebrated 132-year-old Gold Rush-era wooden footbridge in Butte County is among the losses from a devastating Northern California wildfire.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the 238-foot (73-meter) Honey Run Covered Bridge near Chico was leveled in the in the fire that ripped through the area late Thursday. All that’s left are charred wooden beams, rippled sheet metal and red steel beams protruding from concrete.

The newspaper says it is the only three-span truss bridge of its kind in the United States.

It was the backdrop for countless wedding and other celebration photos over the years and in recent years had been used for movie nights.

The Honey Run Covered Bridge was listed on the Register of Historic Places and even had its own association to look after it.


11:05 a.m.

A Northern California newspaper is among those searching for missing people in the wake of a deadly wildfire that started Thursday.

David Little, who is editor of the Chico Enterprise-Record and Oroville Mercury-Register, says they hope to hear from employees Dan Sloane and Sarah Release.

Sloane is a press operator who was scheduled to work Saturday but did not show. Sloane lives in Magalia, which is one of the places hit hard in Butte County.

Release works in classified ads and lives in Paradise, which was decimated by the Camp Fire.

Little says the publisher heard Sunday from friends of a second press operator who also lives in Magalia. The operator is safe.

Little says he hopes the employees are safe and hunkered down somewhere.


11:00 a.m.

A member of the Malibu City Council has been injured by the huge wildfire burning in Southern California.

Councilman Skylar Peak said Sunday that colleague Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner suffered burns trying to save his home, which burned down.

Peak says Wagner is hospitalized down the coast in Santa Monica and is expected to recover.

Wagner runs Zuma Jay Surfboards, a longtime fixture on Pacific Coast Highway near the landmark Malibu Pier.


10:18 a.m.

Strong Santa Ana winds have returned to Southern California, fanning a huge wildfire that has scorched a string of communities west of Los Angeles.

A one-day lull in the dry, northeasterly winds ended Sunday morning and authorities warn that the gusts will continue through Tuesday.

Fire officials say the lull allowed firefighters to gain 10 percent control of the so-called Woolsey fire, which has burned more than 130 square miles in western Los Angeles County and southeastern Ventura County since Thursday.

Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby says that means 90 percent of the fire lines are uncontained and there are numerous hotspots and plenty of fuel that has not burned.

Huge plumes of smoke are rising again in the fire area, which stretches miles from the northwest corner of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley to the Malibu coast.


10:10 a.m.

Relatives are desperately trying to locate more than 100 people who are missing after a wildfire destroyed the town of Paradise in Northern California. Laurie Teague has been looking for her 80-year-old stepfather for days.

Teague has called two hospitals in the area in her search for Herb Alderman, but there was no sign of him. She called a third hospital but learned it had been destroyed in the fire after all patients were evacuated. She even called the coroner’s office.

After answering the phone on the first ring, Teague told a reporter she hopes a friend picked up her stepfather and took him to a shelter. However, Teague’s brother has checked several shelters, and not found him.

She said it’s been tough doing the search but is still holding out hope.


9:50 a.m.

A parking lot in Paradise, California, is a staging area for hearses as search teams try to find the bodies of casualties from a devastating wildfire.

Authorities called in a mobile DNA lab and anthropologists to help identify the dead as the search went on for victims of the most destructive wildfire in California history. The death toll stood at 23 Sunday and appeared likely to climb.

The hearses are waiting for calls from the forensic teams searching for bodies.

California Gov. Jerry Brown is requesting a “major disaster declaration” from the president for the wildfires burning at both ends of the state.

Two people died in Southern California fires.


9:45 a.m.

Chico police are searching for a man who stole a firefighter’s uniform shirt and then tried to sneak into his hotel room.

California Highway Patrol Lt. Denis Ford said Saturday that the thief broke into a marked fire department pickup truck from one of the numerous agencies fighting the fire that devastated the Sierra Nevada foothills town of Paradise this week. He stole items including the uniform shirt marked with the firefighter’s last name Saturday.

The thief then wore the uniform shirt as he tried to talk a Chico hotel clerk into letting him into the firefighter’s room, using the last name. But Ford said the clerk grew suspicious in part because he couldn’t fully identify himself and he fled without being arrested.


9:30 a.m.

Authorities say more than 8,000 firefighters are battling three large wildfires at both ends of California that have destroyed thousands of structures and killed 25.

About 397 square miles (795 square kilometers) of California is burning with the Camp Fire in Northern California’s Butte County being the largest.

The Camp Fire has killed 23 and is the third-deadliest wildfire on record in California.

The Woolsey Fire in Southern California has hit hard celebrity-studded Malibu as well as the city of Thousand Oaks, which was the site of a deadly shooting at a country music bar last week.

Weather conditions for fires are ripe, with strong winds continuing through Sunday in Northern California and through Tuesday in Southern California.

Firefighters from out of state continue to arrive to help.


9:20 a.m.

The wind-driven fire that ripped through the Northern California town of Paradise this week did not make a similar overnight run Sunday on the towns north east of Oroville as officials had feared it might.

“It definitely grew and it definitely grew in those areas,” said fire Capt. Bill Murphy, a spokesman for California’s firefighting agency. “It didn’t grow as much as we thought it potentially could based on the weather forecasts, but the wind will continue … so that potential still exists.”

High, gusty winds predicted from Sunday into Monday morning mean another 24 hours of “red flag” conditions that could spark “explosive fire behavior” of the sort that leveled Paradise and other Sierra Foothill communities Thursday, he said.

That first chaotic day, the fire spread about 20 miles, from the tiny town of Pulga west to the edge of Chico.

The overall death toll from the outbreak of fires across California stood at 25 Sunday and appeared likely to rise.


9 a.m.

California Gov. Jerry Brown is requesting a “major disaster declaration” from the president for the wildfires burning at both ends of the state.

His office said in a statement Sunday that the declaration would bolster ongoing emergency assistance and help residents recover from fires burning in Butte, Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

If granted, the declaration would make individuals eligible for crisis counseling, housing and unemployment help, and legal aid.

The Camp Fire in Northern California’s Butte County has killed 23 people and is the third-deadliest on record in the state.

The overall death toll from the outbreak of fires in California stood at 25 Sunday and appeared likely to rise.


8:30 a.m.

Conditions for firefighting in Southern California were favorable overnight and progress was made, but that’s expected to change.

Cal Fire Battalion Chief Lucas Spelman says firefighters have achieved 10 percent containment of the largest of two fires in the region.

Forecasters, however, say the calm conditions will give way sometime Sunday morning to a new and prolonged round of Santa Ana winds, the withering gusts that blow out of the interior toward the coast.

The count of lost structures in both fires has reached 179, but that’s expected to rise as damage assessments continue.


7:40 a.m.

Firefighters battling the third-deadliest wildfire in California record fended off strong winds overnight and increased their handle on the blaze.

California fire spokesman David Clark said Sunday that the Camp Fire grew slightly to 170 square miles (440 square kilometers), from 164 square miles (425 square kilometers) Saturday night.

It is now 25 percent contained, up from 20 percent Saturday.

Clark says crews are at a “pivotal point” and that high winds and dry conditions similar to when the fire started Thursday are expected for the next 24 hours.

The fire has destroyed more than 6,700 buildings, nearly all of them homes, and killed 23 people.

A pair of fires burning in Southern California has killed two and 250,000 remain under evacuation orders.


7:30 a.m.

Authorities called in a mobile DNA lab and anthropologists to help identify the dead as the search went on for victims of the most destructive wildfire in California history. The death toll stood at 23 Sunday and appeared likely to climb.

With the town of Paradise reduced to a smoking ruin and the fire still raging in surrounding communities, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said the Northern California county was bringing in a fifth search and recovery team.

An anthropology team from California State University at Chico was also assisting, because in some cases “the only remains we are able to find are bones or bone fragments.”

The department compiled a list of 110 people unaccounted for, but officials held out hope that many were safe but had no cellphones or some other way to contact loved ones.

Categories: National & International News