North California fire: Death toll at 77, about 1,000 missing

Rescue ongoing as 993 still unaccounted for more than a week after deadly Camp Fire hit western state.

The death toll from wildfires in Northern California has risen to 77, with thousands left homeless from the deadliest blaze to hit the US state in a century.

“One human remain was located today,” raising the toll by one in the so-called Camp Fire which broke out 10 days ago in northern California, a statement from the Butte County Sheriff said on Sunday.

Hundreds of rescue workers sifted through the rubble in the affected areas on Sunday, amid concerns that rain in the weather forecast could complicate search efforts, while also bringing some relief to firefighters.

Northern California’s Camp Fire has destroyed nearly 10,000 homes and torched 233 square miles (603 square kilometres), and 993 names remain on a list of of people unaccounted for.

The blaze ignited on November 8 was 65 percent contained on Sunday.

Rain is forecast for the area this week, potentially helping douse the flames, but raising the risk of floods and mudslides that will swell the misery of 46,000 people under evacuation orders.

US President Donald Trump toured the area on Saturday and also visited Southern California, where firefighters were making progress on a wildfire that tore through communities west of Los Angeles from Thousand Oaks to Malibu, killing three people.


“We’ve never seen anything like this in California, we’ve never seen anything like this yet. It’s like total devastation,” Trump said as he stood amid the ruins of Paradise, which has a population of about 26,000.

He met state officials, who have been critical of him, and pledged federal assistance for Californians.

‘Where are we going?’

In Paradise, at a makeshift camp, shell-shocked families took stock of their losses.

Amy Bravo-Robertson and her family were among the 50,000 who were forced to flee their homes as the wildfires closed in around them. Her trailer home and place of employment were destroyed.


“A million things are going through my head. We are just trying to figure out where we are going and what we are doing,” she told Al Jazeera.

Trump, downplaying the role of a changing climate in fuelling the fires, said the management and maintenance of forest lands will be the focus moving forward and announced $500m for that effort in the Farm Bill.

“I want a great climate,” he said. “We’re going to have that and we’re going to have forests that are very safe because we can’t go through this every year.”

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea expressed hope that Trump’s visit would help with recovery, saying the tour by the Republican president and California’s Democratic leaders “signals a spirit of cooperation here that ultimately benefit this community and get us on a path toward recovery.”

Trump tours a neighbourhood destroyed by the wildfires in Paradise, California [Evan Vucci/AP]
Trump tours a neighbourhood destroyed by the wildfires in Paradise, California [Evan Vucci/AP]
Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies