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Image / Editorial

With 80 dead and 1,000 missing, here’s the latest on the California wildfires


By Grace McGettigan
19th Nov 2018
With 80 dead and 1,000 missing, here’s the latest on the California wildfires

State officials have confirmed 80 people have lost their lives in the California wildfires, while approximately 1,000 people are still missing.

The fires, which have been burning since Thursday, November 8, began in two separate woodland areas in the north and south of the state. Strong winds forced the flames further afield to Malibu and Los Angeles, and the LA fire department was forced to issue a mandatory evacuation notice.

Related: ‘We are surrounded by fire. We may not
make it out alive’ 

The fire in the north of the state is the most deadly of the two. It has already claimed 77 lives, destroyed almost 13,000 homes and businesses, and is still only 65% contained. Firefighters say this inferno, which has consumed the town of Paradise, won’t be fully contained until November 30.

The wildfire has been described as the worst in Californian history; with over 150,000 acres of land and property completely destroyed as of Sunday, November 18.

As for the fire in the south of the state, it’s 91% contained. Just three deaths have been confirmed as a result of this Woolsey fire, while approximately 97,000 acres of land have been destroyed.

Rain mightn’t be a good thing

Rain has been forecast for California this week, and while this is good news for firefighters tackling the flames, it spells bad news for rescuers.

It’s feared rain will turn dry ash into a thick mud, which will slow down their search for survivors. What’s worse, heavy downpours could wash away human remains before rescuers have time to find and identify them. There’s also a high risk of mudslides.

Speaking to Reuters, weather forecaster Patrick Burke said the rain will be a “one-two punch,” as “there is a potential for dangerous mudslides wherever vegetation is burned away on slopes and hills.”

Community support

Last night, residents of Paradise gathered for an evening vigil. More than 100 people came together at the First Christian Church of Chico to sing songs, pray, and offer support to their community members.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland radio show this morning, Mayor of Paradise Jody Jones said, “Paradise is devastated. We’re all supporting each other. We’re having a huge community Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday.”

As for rebuilding the town, she said it’s a matter of taking “one day at a time” and putting “one foot in front of the other”.

Photo by @blmcalifornia via Flickr, labelled for reuse