Northern California Fires Death Toll Now at 48, Many Still Missing

November 14, 2018, 1:31 pm EST | Share:

CHICO, Calif. (AP) — Photos of the missing and pleas for information about relatives and friends in California’s deadliest wildfire fill a message board at a shelter of people who fled.

One of the messages read, “I hope you are okay.” Another board contained a picture of a missing man stating, “If seen, please call.”

The total number of dead if 48 so far, including six more fatalities reported on Tuesday, November 13th, in Northern California. The total number still missing has not been released, but earlier this week that number was over 200.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said a list of the missing would be released soon and that 100 National Guard troops would help teams already looking for remains.

“We want to be able to cover as much ground as quickly as we possibly can,” he said. “This is a very difficult task.”

As authorities increased efforts, people waited for any word on those still not found.

Greg Gibson was one of the people searching the message board Tuesday, hoping to find information about his neighbors. They’ve been reported missing, but he doesn’t know if they tried to escape or hesitated a few minutes longer than he did before fleeing Paradise, the town of 27,000 which was consumed last Thursday. About 7,700 homes were destroyed.

“It happened so fast. It would have been such an easy decision to stay, but it was the wrong choice,” Gibson said from the Neighborhood Church in Chico, California.

More than 1,000 people were at shelters set up for evacuees.

Inside the church, evacuee Harold Taylor chatted with newfound friends.

Taylor, a 72-year-old Vietnam veteran who walks with a cane, said he received a call Thursday morning to evacuate immediately. He saw the flames leaping up behind his house, left with the clothes on his back and barely made it out alive.

Along the way, he tried to convince his neighbor to get in his car and evacuate with him, but the neighbor declined. He doesn’t know what happened to his friend.

“We didn’t have 10 minutes to get out of there,” he said. “It was already in flames downtown, all the local restaurants and stuff,” he said.

The search for the dead was drawing on portable devices that can identify someone’s genetic material in a couple of hours, rather than days or weeks.

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