California Fires Death Toll Rises to 31
According to recent official reports, California fires death toll has risen to 31, with more than 200 people still unaccounted for.
Six more people were confirmed killed in the Camp Fire in the north of California, taking the toll there to 29.
That fire now equals the deadliest on record in California – the 1933 Griffith Park disaster in Los Angeles.
In the south of the state, the Woolsey Fire has claimed two lives as it damaged beach resorts including Malibu.
An estimated 250,000 people have been forced to flee their homes to avoid three major blazes in the state.
With strengthening winds threatening to spread the flames, California Governor Jerry Brown has urged President Trump to declare a major disaster, a move that would harness more federal emergency funds.
The appeal came a day after President Trump threatened to cut funding for California, blaming the fires on poor forest management.
Emergency teams have been sifting through the remains of more than 6,700 homes and businesses burned down in the town of Paradise.
Paradise and surrounding area bore the brunt of the inferno, which started in nearby forest on November 8.
At a news conference on November 11, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said the bodies of five people had been found in their burned-out homes and a sixth was found inside a vehicle. He said that more than 200 people were still unaccounted for.
The fire is the most destructive in the state’s history and the joint deadliest.
According to fire officials, it has burned more than 109,000 acres and is nearly 25% contained.
The blaze started on November 8 near Thousand Oaks, about 40 miles north-west of central Los Angeles.
By November 11 the fire had consumed 83,000 acres and destroyed at least 177 buildings, officials said. It is only 10% contained. The smaller Hill Fire, nearby, has scorched 4,530 acres and is 75% contained.
Some looting was reported in the southern fire area over the weekend and police said arrests had been made.
Thomas Fire Becomes Largest Blaze in California’s History
Thomas Fire: California Governor Jerry Brown Brands Wildfires as New Normal
Luxury homes in Malibu and other beach communities are among properties that have fallen victim to the flames.
Gerard Butler shared a picture of a charred house on Twitter, writing: “Returned to my house in Malibu after evacuating. Heartbreaking time across California. Inspired as ever by the courage, spirit and sacrifice of firefighters. Thank you @LAFD. If you can, support these brave men and women at http://SupportLAFD.org .”
Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills, where the HBO series Westworld is filmed, was also destroyed.
On November 10, firefighters used a respite from strong winds to drop fire retardant in a bid to strengthen firebreaks.
However, officials warned against complacency, with winds of up to 70mph expected over the coming days. They said fires could spread quickly and unexpectedly.
Los Angeles County fire chief Daryl Osby said: “Winds are already blowing. They are going to blow for the next three days. Your house can be rebuilt but you can’t bring your life back.”
Meteorologist David Gomberg told the Los Angeles Times that fire tornadoes were possible.
Governor Jerry Brown’s request to President Donald Trump was aimed at bolstering the emergency response to what he called the “catastrophic” nature of the wildfires.
In a letter, the governor said: “We’re putting everything we’ve got into the fight against these fires and this request ensures communities on the front lines get additional federal aid.”
The president’s response to the fires has been criticized as unsympathetic and ill-informed.
On November 11, during his trip to Paris, President Trump tweeted: “With proper Forest Management, we can stop the devastation constantly going on in California. Get Smart!”
The president has previously blamed Californian officials for wildfires and threatened to withhold federal funding.
In a tweet on November 10, President Trump accused California authorities of “gross mismanagement” of forests.
Governor Brown’s spokesman, Evan Westrub, called President Trump’s comments “inane and uninformed”.
Historically, California’s “wildfire season” started in summer and ran into early autumn. However, experts have warned that the risk is becoming year-round.
The current fires are being blamed on a combination of climate change and transient weather conditions.
Low humidity, warm Santa Ana winds, and dry ground after a rain-free month have produced prime fire-spreading conditions.
California’s population stands at 40 million, almost double what it was in the 1970s, and the number living close to at-risk forest areas is rising.
And recent years have produced record-breaking temperatures, earlier springs, and less reliable rainfall.
Citing the role of a warming climate, Governor Jerry Brown declared: “This is not the new normal, this is the new abnormal. The chickens are coming home to roost, this is real here.”
Neil Young made the same link, writing on his website: “I have lost my home before to a California wildfire, now another.
“We are vulnerable because of climate change; the extreme weather events and our extended drought is part of it.”