Death toll in California's deadliest wildfire revised down

Flames from the Camp fire burn near a home atop a ridge near Big Bend, California, on Nov 10, 2018.
Flames from the Camp fire burn near a home atop a ridge near Big Bend, California, on Nov 10, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

ATLANTA • The death toll in California's deadliest wildfire has been revised downwards to 85 and the number of people believed missing fell again to 11, from a high of more than 1,200 about two weeks ago.

The number of dead was revised from 88 after DNA tests on recovered remains by the coroner's office, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said late on Monday in a televised press conference.

Of the remains of the dead found, 43 people have been positively identified, the sheriff's department said. No new human remains have been found since last week, Mr Honea said, but the search for remains was expected to continue yesterday.

The so-called Camp Fire, which started on Nov 8, has all but obliterated the mountain community of Paradise, about 280km north of San Francisco. It had been home to more than 27,000 people.

The fire was fully contained on Nov 25, but the cause is still being investigated. The electricity utility PG&E Corp reported equipment problems near the origin of the fire around the time it began.

Almost a month after the fire erupted, with the weather worsening and evacuation shelters closing or relocating farther away, tensions are growing between those who were already homeless and the newly homeless, as each group reaches for the other's resources.

California has one of the largest homeless populations of any state in the United States at about 134,000 people. Butte County alone already had about 2,000 homeless before the Camp Fire.


In the post-fire reality, after 52,000 people were evacuated, the number looking for some place to live has grown exponentially almost overnight.

"If they end up in the county and need homes, that's just the largest disaster you can imagine," said Ms Laura Cootsona, executive director of the Jesus Centre in Chico, one of a handful of primary homeless shelters in the county.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 05, 2018, with the headline 'Death toll in California's deadliest wildfire revised down'. Print Edition | Subscribe