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California’s “Camp Fire” Death Toll Jumps to 48 as Thousands of Firefighters Battle Blazes

The “Camp Fire” in Northern California has scorched some 130,000 acres and is 35 % contained, according to officials Tuesday night. In addition, the “Camp Fire” death toll has now reached 48. Statewide there are a total of 50 deaths.

Some 9,000 firefighters have been battling the wildfires, which have become the deadliest and costliest in state history. Search teams have been using power saws and cadaver dogs to try to locate victims of the “Camp Fire.”

Those who survived have been scrambling to find a place to stay. In Southern California, evacuation orders were lifted for many of the areas affected by the “Woolsey Fire,” but some came home only to be told to leave again.

“It’s terrible,” said Alex Goodwin of Hidden Valley. “We evacuated, thought the danger was done, and then of course came back thinking it was safe … and it’s terrifying.”

California wildfires fast facts

12:45 a.m.: Firefighters are battling three major wildfires in California. Here’s a breakdown by the numbers as of Tuesday night, according to Cal Fire and local officials.

Camp Fire

Location: Butte County

130,000 acres burned

35 percent contained

48 fatalities confirmed, 3 firefighters injured

228 people unaccounted for

8,817 structures destroyed, 7,600 of them homes

Woolsey Fire

Location: Los Angeles County, Ventura County

97,114 acres burned (roughly the size of Denver)

40 percent contained

2 fatalities confirmed, 3 firefighters injured

Some 370 structures destroyed, 57,000 in danger

Hill Fire

Location: Ventura County

4,531 acres burned

92 percent contained

New blaze breaks out east of L.A.

A brush fire estimated at 20 to 30 acres was burning near homes in Rialto in San Bernardino County Tuesday night as winds whipped up, reports CBS Los Angeles.

Crews were using bulldozers to attack the fire and were making progress.

But Santa Ana winds picked up embers and pushed smoke into the air. Plumes of thick smoke could be seen from miles away.

  • Overnight, fire officials tweeted that firefighters were “making good progress despite relentless winds,” adding, “Engines continue to patrol neighborhoods monitoring for embers. Resources will remain on scene tonight into tomorrow constructing and reinforcing containment lines. Updated acreage in progress.”
  • Officials say “Camp Fire” death toll is now 48

9:05 p.m.: The “Camp Fire” has now been blamed for 48 deaths as of Tuesday night. Remains of six humans were found earlier in the day. Two other deaths in the state bring the total to 50 killed.

An additional 100 National Guard troops were to join teams already looking for human remains.

There are some 5,615 personnel fighting the blaze. Some 52,000 people have been evacuated.

A total of 8,817 structures have been destroyed. Of those, 7,600 are homes.

There are a total of 1,385 shelters.

The “Camp Fire” has been 35 percent contained, as of Tuesday evening. A total of 130,000 acres have been burned so far.

A National Weather Service meteorologist warned about poor air quality. Weather conditions, however, will become more favorable.

Officials have urged residents to use “extreme caution” when they return to property hit by the wildfire. They have warned about trees marked with P1 and P2 — meaning they are hazardous.

The Butte County sheriff’s office said there have been 208 suspicious incidents reported. Of those reports, 18 of them were linked to looting. Deputies arrested Monday two men linked to looting a residence within an evacuated area and were in possession of a gun. They were booked into the Butte County jail.

Earlier Tuesday, deputies arrested another two men who were found looting and booked into Butte County jail. Also, deputies found a motor home that was previously reported stolen and arrested a 22-year-old man and a 22-year-old woman linked to that crime.

Woman searches for father who went missing in California’s “Camp Fire”

For the relatives and friends of the missing in the deadly “Camp Fire,” it has been an agonizing wait for answers, especially for 30-year-old Chardonnay Telly, who has not heard from her father, Richard Brown, since before the blaze.

Trump calls wildfires “a very tough situation”

  • President Trump called the wildfires “devastating” and “the likes of which we’ve never seen before” at the White House on Tuesday. “We mourn the lives of those lost, and we pray for the victims, and there are more victims than anybody would ever even think possible,” Mr. Trump said during a ceremony marking Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.

On Saturday, the president blamed the fires on “poor” forest management in the state, saying on Twitter that there was “no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor.” The causes for the state’s biggest fires were under investigation.

Mr. Trump had threatened to withhold federal aid, but he approved an emergency disaster declaration Monday making federal resources available to affected communities. On Tuesday, the president thanked firefighters, first responders and officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for responding to the fires, which he described as “a very tough situation.”

  • Liam Hemsworth posts picture of destroyed house

Actor Liam Hemsworth posted a picture of the remnants of his Malibu house on Twitter on Tuesday. Scorched stones spelling the word “love” are surrounded by what was left after the “Woolsey Fire” hit the “Hunger Games” star’s home.

“It’s been a heartbreaking few days,” Hemsworth said. “This is what’s left of my house. Love.”

  • On Sunday, Miley Cyrus, who is reportedly Hemsworth’s fiancee, said that she also lost her home, ET reports. Hemsworth said in another tweet Tuesday that he spent Monday in Malibu.

“It was amazing to see the community pulling together to help each other out in any way they can,” Hemsworth said. “Malibu is a strong community and this event is only going to make it stronger.”

  • No elevated radiation levels near ex-nuclear test site

California regulators said initial testing has found no elevated levels of radiation or hazardous compounds after the “Woolsey Fire” burned near a former nuclear test site in hills to the northwest of Los Angeles. The state Department of Toxic Substance Control said its staff went to the site known as the Santa Susana Field Laboratory on Saturday and found that facilities that previously handled radioactive and hazardous materials were not affected by the fire.

The organization Physicians for Social Responsibility said in statement Monday that it was likely that smoke and ash from the fire spread radiological and chemical contamination that was in soil and vegetation. But the state agency said its measurements on the site and in the surrounding community found no radiation levels above background levels and no elevated levels of hazardous compounds other than those normally present after a wildfire.

The site was used for decades for testing rocket engines and nuclear energy research. One of its nuclear reactors had a partial meltdown in 1959.

Battles over decontamination efforts have gone on for years, with neighbors blaming illnesses on the site.

Crews trying to keep “Camp Fire” away from town

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said Tuesday that firefighters held containment lines to slow the “Camp Fire” from advancing toward Oroville, a town of 19,000 people. Officials said more than 5,000 firefighters were battling the blaze that leveled the town of Paradise.

Milder winds of up to 25 mph were expected in the area Tuesday. But Jonathan Pangburn, a fire behavior specialist at Cal Fire, said there’s plenty of bone-dry vegetation ready to burn “really fast and hot.”

Threat from “Woolsey Fire” far from over

In Southern California, firefighters said the threat from the “Woolsey Fire” was far from over, CBS News correspondent Jamie Yuccas reports. Gusty Santa Ana winds continued to cause flare-ups overnight Monday, forcing firefighters to move from spot fire to spot fire.

Some 200,000 people remain under mandatory evacuation orders. Dry vegetation, low humidity and mountainous geography make it hard for crews to get the upper hand.

Cal Fire Battalion Chief Lucas Spelman told Yuccas that the cause of the fire has yet to be determined. “Sometimes it takes weeks and even months to actually put all that together,” he said.

Crews using power saws in search for remains

In what’s left of the town of Paradise, search-and-recovery crews wear facemasks as they carefully sort through piles of debris and use power saws to cut through melted and twisted metal searching for human remains, CBS News correspondent Mireya Villarreal reports. With so many people missing, every inch of a mobile home park has to be searched.

Cadaver dogs are brought into areas that crews can’t access. State officials have even requested two portable mortuaries and rapid DNA testing to expedite the identification process.

“Under normal circumstances where you would have, you know, people and places and things to help you connect them, a lot of that is gone,” Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said.

“The fire behavior is just so intense”

Malibu looks like a war zone, with homes and businesses burned to the ground. Charred earth as far as the eye can see. All this, as the “Woolsey Fire” is still nowhere near contained, CBS News’ Jamie Yuccas reports.

“It really seems like we are chasing it, it moves so fast, so aggressive, and the fire behavior is just so intense,” said Mike Grosenbach, a Los Angeles County firefighter.

Firefighters are working to cut a perimeter around the fire. Students at Pepperdine University in Malibu were told to shelter in place as the flames crept neared campus. Nearby homeowners had minutes to get their horses to safety, turning the iconic Zuma Beach into a makeshift ranch.

“[The Pacific] felt like the safest place to be with the fresh air coming. At least you have fresh air coming off the ocean. The air was so thick last night, you could barely breathe,” said homeowner Robin Elmasian.

Patients evacuated from hospital as fire closed in

A registered nurse was one of several hospital staff members in Northern California who helped evacuate patients as the “Camp Fire” closed in, CBS News correspondent Mireya Villarreal reports. Darrell Wilken and his patients fled the raging flames in Paradise, which was nearly wiped out.

“It was everywhere,” Wilken said. He had three patients, two critical, in his car.

Vehicles around him were on fire. He thought they may be next, so he and his patients called their families to say goodbye.

“What do you do when you go through hell?” Wilken said. “You just keep going.”

It took them more three hours to get through hell. “I’m still shaking, every time I talk about it,” Wilken said.

Winds threaten to undo firefighters’ progress

Winds threatened to undo the progress that firefighters made over the weekend, “CBS Evening News” anchor Jeff Glor reports from Calabasas, California, on the western edge of Los Angeles County. On Sunday night, officials ordered all of the nearly 25,000 people who live in Calabasas to evacuate.

Winds began picking up overnight Sunday with one gust measured at 58 mph. Gusts this week were forecast to hit as high as 70 mph.

The gusts are what make the fires spread so quickly. The winds also threaten to ground helicopters and planes that are used to drop water, which could force crews to fight the flames solely from the ground.

“Camp Fire” jumps across part of lake

The “Camp Fire” was active all night long Sunday and jumped 300 feet across a portion of Lake Oroville at least three times, Jonathan Pangburn, a fire behavior specialist at Cal Fire, said Monday morning. Officials said more than 4,500 firefighters are on day four of their battle against the blaze.

After a lull of strong winds that make for dangerous fire conditions, the area near Paradise — a town of 27,000 that was largely incinerated Thursday — will have wind gusts as high as 40 mph by Monday evening.

Tempers flare among some evacuees

A town hall meeting quickly turned tense Sunday as fire evacuees demanded to know why there weren’t more firefighters on-scene and why their homes were left undefended, reports CBS Los Angeles.

The community meeting at Taft High School in Woodland Hills to update residents on the “Woolsey Fire” and “Hill Fire” lasted about three hours.

Some evacuees also demanded answers about why there wasn’t more communication when the fires broke out.

“Some of my neighbors have lost everything. And I’m not sure if my house is standing,” one woman said, pointing at officials. “Please answer that.”

Cal Fire said, simply put, that the strain on resources has been enormous since so much of the state was under siege by flames and wind.

State Sen. Henry Stern tried to reassure the crowd, empathizing as he insisted he’s also a victim of the fires.

“I still don’t know if my home is standing. And I don’t know if my grandparents’ home is standing,” he said.

“When you’re in this position, you’re homeless,” Denise Pepper said. “There’s nothing. Thank God I have my husband and we have our two dogs. You know, so, whatever help you can get. You want answers now, you do.”

State and local fire, law enforcement and emergency management officials spoke to the public about the efforts in battling the blazes.

One question they couldn’t answer is if President Trump would free up federal funds.

“Right now it’s pending,” said FEMA’s Veornica Verde. “But one of the things people can start to do now to start preparing is call their insurance company. Make sure they have that phone number and if they can, take photos of any damages.”

Some evacuation orders for Woolsey Fire lifted

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is allowing people to return to their homes in parts of Agoura Hills and Westlake Village and re-opening a section of freeway due to progress made by firefighters battling the Woolsey Fire, reports CBS Los Angeles.

The department made the announcement Sunday evening for the L.A. County-side of communities located north of the 101 Freeway, the station says.

But officials stressed that there won’t be any access to neighborhoods south of the freeway.

Celebrities lose homes in Southern California

Actor Gerard Butler and Camille Grammer Meyer of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” are among the celebrities whose homes have been damaged or destroyed. Butler said on Instagram that his Malibu home is “half-gone,” and shared a photo of himself standing in front of a burned-out section of the house and a badly burned vehicle.

Meyer’s publicist said her home in Malibu was destroyed Saturday night. He said she’s grateful to have safely evacuated with her family, is appreciative of firefighters who have risked their lives fighting the blaze, and is grateful to the love and concern shown for her.

“Sadly my house couldn’t be saved. The courageous firefighters were able to save my cars and personal items recovered from my home,” she wrote on Instagram. “Sad we lost our home but grateful that my family is safe.”

Gold Rush-era bridge destroyed by flames

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 the 238-foot 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 reports 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.

2 newspaper workers missing after wildfire

A Northern California newspaper is among those searching for missing people in the wake of the deadly wildfire. David Little, who is editor of the Chico Enterprise-Record and Oroville Mercury-Register, said 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. He 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 said friends of a second press operator told the publisher he was safe. “Our missing employees aren’t more important than anyone else’s — but they’re ours, so I’m trying,” he tweeted. “I hope they and all the other missing people are safe, hunkered down somewhere.”

Strong winds fanning Woolsey Fire

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 said the lull allowed firefighters to gain 10 percent control of the “Woolsey Fire,” which has burned more than 80,000 acres in western Los Angeles County and southeastern Ventura County since Thursday.

Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said 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.

Wildfire causes “utter panic” as people try to escape

As the fast-moving fire ravaged Northern California, highways were jammed with cars as people desperately tried to escape. One man battled burning ash as he tried to find a way out. He’s safe now, but others were forced to abandon their cars and run for their lives.

Five miles north of Paradise, Tisha Aroyo and her grandfather stayed behind. He said he thought he could save her house, but they would only watch helplessly as their home burned.

JT Ford and his wife Stacey went to a nearby pasture, where they watched their home go up in flames. “The fire roared through so quick it was only an hour of utter panic and fear because then everything burned out,” Ford said.

Flames have moved so quickly there’s not a lot firefighters can do. “That fire from the second it started was off to the races,” said Ken Pimlott, director of Cal Fire. “It’s all hands on deck to rescue people and get people out of harm’s way.”

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