The Latest: Sheriff: Death toll rises to 56 in wildfire

National/World

The Latest on the wildfires in California (all times local):

6:30 p.m.

Authorities have reported eight more fatalities from a blaze in Northern California, bringing the total number of fatalities so far to 56 in the deadliest wildfire in state history.

The announcement came Wednesday after authorities ramped up the search for more victims and said that 130 people were still unaccounted for.

Authorities said the blaze has grown in size to 215 square miles and destroyed nearly 9,000 homes.

At an evening news conference, officials said that more than 5,000 fire personnel were battling the blaze that was now 35 percent contained.

The fire that started last Thursday has displaced 52,000 people and incinerated the town of Paradise.

Officials said that 1,385 people were being housed in shelters.

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6:10 p.m.

Authorities have reported eight more fatalities from a blaze in Northern California, bringing the total death toll so far to 56 in the deadliest wildfire in state history.

The sheriff says 130 people are still on missing list.
 

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6 p.m.

Wildfire experts say the Northern California wildfire that has killed at least 48 is the deadliest in a century.

California officials say the fire burning in a rural area far north of San Francisco killed more people than any other blaze in the state’s recorded history.

The U.S. government doesn’t closely track civilian casualties, and records from long ago are incomplete.

Stephen Pyne, an Arizona State University professor and fire historian, said Wednesday the California fire certainly is the deadliest since 1918, when a wildfire in northern Minnesota killed an estimated 1,000 people.

That fire prompted the federal government to start developing firefighting practices and policies. ___

3:45 p.m.

A massive Northern California wildfire has forced local high schools to postpone football playoffs for a week.

But Paradise High School forfeited its first-round game after nearly all its players lost their homes. The 8-2 Bobcats earned a No. 3 seeding in the playoffs after finishing last in its division last year.

The team was scheduled to play last Friday. Its competitor, Red Bluff High School, offered to forfeit and allow Paradise to move on to the second round.

Paradise head coach Rick Prinz turned down the offer, saying it was best to end the school’s season and focus on recovering from the wildfire that destroyed most of the town.

The 49ers surprised the team Monday and brought it to San Francisco to watch its game against the New York Giants.


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3:20 p.m.

At least two dozen people who were trapped by a wall of fire in Northern California survived by plunging into a cold lake.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports Tuesday that the people plunged into the Concow Reservoir after flames surrounded their homes in a community outside the decimated town of Paradise. At least a dozen were in a caravan of vehicles that got cut off by the fire last Thursday.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Division Chief Garrett Sjolund says firefighters helped fleeing residents, distributing fire shelters to those who couldn’t stand the water. The shelters are a last resort for protection against flames.

Concow resident Peggy Moak says she and others pulled people out of the lake with a canoe.

Authorities say several of those in the reservoir were hospitalized, some with serious burns.

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1:50 p.m.

A utility accused in a lawsuit of igniting a deadly Northern California wildfire has acknowledged that it contacted a customer about a power line on her property.

Betsy Ann Cowley says Pacific Gas & Electric Co. emailed her the day before the blaze ignited last Thursday about working on some lines on her property. She says the utility had told her it had problems with sparks.

PG&E spokesman Paul Doherty said in a statement Tuesday evening that the utility hadn’t seen anything “that includes a discussion with the customer in question about ‘sparks’ and PG&E infrastructure.”

He says the company reached out about future work on a line that had been shut down.

The cause of the fire that killed dozens and largely destroyed the town of Paradise is under investigation. People whose homes were destroyed sued PG&E, accusing it of negligence and blaming it for the fire.

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1:25 p.m.

Officials say they’re looking to bring in mobile homes for thousands of people who have lost their houses to a Northern California wildfire.

Mark Ghilarducci of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services says U.S. and state officials also are looking into hotels and rental properties to house people driven from the town of Paradise and neighboring communities.

The blaze displaced 52,000 people and destroyed more than 7,600 homes. It killed dozens of people, with more still missing.

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said Wednesday that temporary schools and hospitals will be brought in because rebuilding Paradise will take time.

He says the town of 27,000 won’t be rebuilt the way it was and that “we will all have to work together to find a new normal.”

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1:25 p.m.

Army National Guard members are searching a home that burned down in a Northern California wildfire and the surrounding area for remains.

The property is entirely burned to the ground, with giant heaps of bent and burned metal covering the ground. Guard members on Wednesday lifted up and moved metal to search underneath.

Pink and blue chalk drawings of a cat and a flower are still visible on the concrete driveway, one of the few parts of the property still intact. A scorched toy truck also sits on the driveway.

The Guard is focusing its search on homes where family and friends have reported people missing.

The state’s deadliest wildfire has leveled the town of Paradise and killed dozens, with more still missing.

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12:55 p.m.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is visiting the aftermath of California’s deadliest wildfire and says it’s not the time to “point fingers.”

Zinke lamented the destruction Wednesday and says there are many factors in wildfires, including rising temperatures.

He was visiting the town of Paradise with Gov. Jerry Brown days after President Donald Trump blamed “poor” forest management for the fire. Brown says climate change is the greater source of the problem.

Brown says he spoke with Trump on Wednesday and that the president has pledged “the full resources of the federal government.”

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long called the blaze “one of the worst disasters that I’ve seen in my career.”

Brock said people affected by the fire can start requesting federal assistance.

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12:55 p.m.

A team of Army National Guard members is looking for bodies at houses where officials have reports of missing people following a massive Northern California wildfire.

Butte County Deputy Sheriff Steve Collins says the number of missing is “fluctuating every day” as people are located or remains are found.

The state’s deadliest wildfire has killed dozens of people and largely leveled the town of Paradise.

He urged anyone who had previously contacted the sheriff’s department about missing people but had since found their loved ones to call back.

Dozens of soldiers in National Guard uniforms were working Wednesday with anthropological teams. Collins says when anything resembling human remains is found, the coroner’s office takes over.

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12:15 p.m.

President Donald Trump is praising firefighters and first responders for an “incredible job” tackling California’s deadliest wildfire.

Trump tweeted Wednesday that he had been briefed by Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who are in California.

Trump wrote: “Thank you to the great Firefighters, First Responders and @fema for the incredible job they are doing w/ the California Wildfires. Our Nation appreciates your heroism, courage & genius. God Bless you all!”

Trump previously blamed “poor” forest management for the fires. California Gov. Jerry Brown says federal and state governments must do more forest management but says climate change is the greater source of the problem.

Dozens of people have been confirmed dead in the wildfires, with more still missing.

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12:15 p.m.

Authorities have released the names of about 100 people who are still missing after a massive wildfire in Northern California, including many in their 80s and 90s.

The Butte County sheriff’s office made the names public late Tuesday, but spokeswoman Megan McMann says the list is incomplete.

She says the detectives are concerned they’ll be overwhelmed by calls from relatives if the entire list is released, so they’re putting out the names “in batches.” She says the list would be updated.

It comes as additional crews joined the search and the death toll climbed to 48 in California’s deadliest wildfire.

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10:45 a.m.

Authorities say six people have been arrested on suspicion of looting homes evacuated when a deadly fire swept through a Northern California town and several surrounding communities.

The Butte County Sheriff’s Office says deputies on Monday found two men hiding inside home in the town of Paradise with a .45 caliber handgun and drugs. Deputies also found an ATV, an AR-15 rifle and tools the men are suspected of stealing.

The office says deputies arrested two other men Tuesday with a laptop computer that didn’t belong to them.

A few hours later Tuesday, two more people were arrested after they were spotted in a motorhome reported stolen in the neighboring town of Magalia.

The fire that started Nov. 8 killed at least 48 people, displaced 52,000 and has destroyed 7,600 homes.
 

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