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Record Deaths in N. Calif. Wildfires   11/12 06:23

   PARADISE, Calif. (AP) -- As wildfires continued to rage on both ends of 
California, officials released another grim statistic: six more dead in a swath 
of Northern California wiped out by fire, raising the death toll there to 29. 
It matched California's record for deaths in a single fire.

   Another 228 remain unaccounted for as crews stepped up the search for bodies 
and missing people. Two people were killed in a wildfire in Southern California.

   Ten search teams were working in Paradise --- a town of 27,000 that was 
largely incinerated last week --- and in surrounding communities in the Sierra 
Nevada foothills. Authorities called in a DNA lab and teams of anthropologists 
to help identify victims.

   Statewide, 150,000 remained displaced as more than 8,000 fire crews battled 
wildfires that have scorched 400 square miles (1,040 square kilometers), with 
out-of-state crews continuing to arrive. Whipping winds and tinder-dry 
conditions threaten more areas through the rest of the week, fire officials 
warned.

   "This is truly a tragedy that all Californians can understand and respond 
to," Gov. Jerry Brown said at a press briefing. "It's a time to pull together 
and work through these tragedies."

   Brown, who has declared a state emergency, said California is requesting aid 
from the Trump administration. President Donald Trump has blamed "poor" forest 
management for the fires. Brown said federal and state governments must do more 
forest management but that climate change is the greater source of the problem.

   "And those who deny that are definitely contributing to the tragedies that 
we're now witnessing, and will continue to witness in the coming years," he 
said.

   Drought and warmer weather attributed to climate change, and the building of 
homes deeper into forests have led to longer and more destructive wildfire 
seasons in California. While California officially emerged from a five-year 
drought last year, much of the northern two-thirds of the state is abnormally 
dry.

   Firefighters battling fire with shovels and bulldozers, flame retardant and 
hoses expected wind gusts up to 40 mph (64 kph) overnight Sunday.

   In Southern California , firefighters beat back a new round of winds Sunday 
and the fire's growth and destruction are believed to have been largely 
stopped. Malibu celebrities and mobile-home dwellers in nearby mountains were 
slowly learning whether their homes had been spared or reduced to ash. Two 
people were killed and the fire had destroyed nearly 180 structures.

   Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby stressed there were numerous 
hotspots and plenty of fuel that had not yet burned, but at sunset he said 
there had been huge successes despite "a very challenging day."

   Celebrities whose coastal homes were damaged or destroyed in a Southern 
California wildfire or were forced to flee from the flames expressed sympathy 
and solidarity with less-famous people hurt worse by the state's deadly blazes, 
and gave their gratitude to firefighters who kept them safe. Actor Gerard 
Butler said on Instagram that his Malibu home was "half-gone," adding he was 
"inspired as ever by the courage, spirit and sacrifice of firefighters."

   Flames also besieged Thousand Oaks, the Southern California city in mourning 
over the massacre of 12 people in a shooting rampage at a country music bar on 
Wednesday night.

   In Northern California, where more than 6,700 buildings have been destroyed, 
the scope of the devastation was beginning to set in even as the blaze raged on.

   Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said the county consulted teams of 
anthropologists because, in some cases, investigators have been able to recover 
only bones and bone fragments.

   In some neighborhoods "it's very difficult to determine whether or not there 
may be human remains there," Honea said.

   Public safety officials toured the Paradise area to begin discussing the 
recovery process. Much of what makes the city function is gone.

   "Paradise was literally wiped off the map," said Tim Aboudara, a 
representative for International Association of Fire Fighters. He said at least 
36 firefighters lost their own homes, most in the Paradise area.

   "Anytime you're a firefighter and your town burns down, there's a lot of 
feelings and a lot of guilt and a lot of concern about both what happened and 
what the future looks like," he said. "Every story that we've heard coming 
through has been that way, like 'I wish I could have done more, What's going to 
happen to our community, Where are my kids going to go to school?'"

   Others continued the desperate search for friends or relatives, calling 
evacuation centers, hospitals, police and the coroner's office.

   Sol Bechtold drove from shelter to shelter looking for his mother, Joanne 
Caddy, a 75-year-old widow whose house burned down along with the rest of her 
neighborhood in Magalia, just north of Paradise. She lived alone and did not 
drive.

   As he drove through the smoke and haze to yet another shelter, he said, "I'm 
also under a dark emotional cloud. Your mother's somewhere and you don't know 
where she's at. You don't know if she's safe."

   The 29 dead in Northern California matched the deadliest single fire on 
record, a 1933 blaze in Griffith Park in Los Angeles, though a series of 
wildfires in Northern California wine country last fall killed 44 people and 
destroyed more than 5,000 homes.

   Firefighters made progress against the blaze, holding containment at 25 
percent on Sunday, but they were bracing for gusty winds predicted into Monday 
morning that could spark "explosive fire behavior," California Department of 
Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Bill Murphy said.

   Fire officials are bracing for potentially more fires in Southern 
California's inland region as high winds and critically dry conditions were 
expected to persist into next week.

   "We are really just in the middle of this protracted weather event, this 
fire siege," Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott said.

   He said officials were moving resources and preparing for "the next set of 
fires" as winds are expected to pick up. The chief warned that fire conditions 
will continue until the parched state sees rain.

   "We are in this for the long haul," Pimlott said.


(KA)

 
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