Officials battling a devastating fire in Northern California that has become the deadliest of the year in the state to date fear the death toll could rise on Friday as at least 16 people are missing.
At least 15 people are reported dead in California, Oregon and Washington as wildfires continue to rage in all three states.
The North Complex fire has burned more than 244,000 acres near Oroville by this morning and is only 23% contained, according to Cal Fire. But authorities say things are slower now on Friday as the winds have eased and the smoke has shaded the area and lowered the temperature, allowing firefighters to move forward.
Among the strangers are Sandy Butler and her husband, who called their son to say they would try to escape the flames by taking shelter in a pond.
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“We still hope and pray for good news,”
Fallon said she riddled hospitals with phone calls looking for her grandparents, but there wasn’t a word from them until late Thursday night.
On Thursday, Butte County Sheriff’s captain Derek Bell said the burn death toll at North Complex had reached 10 and four people had been hospitalized after severe burns.
He added that MPs and detectives search for human remains as they head into devastated areas with a team of anthropologists from Chico State University.
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To date, more than 2,000 homes and other buildings have burned in the fire that began as a lightning-fast accumulation of flames northeast of San Francisco a few weeks ago. The final toll is expected to be much higher and the damage assessment teams plan to conduct a methodical search of the burned areas on Friday.
President Trump spoke to Governor Gavin Newsom “to express his condolences for the loss of life and to reiterate the government’s full support to help those on the front lines of the fires,” said White House spokesman Judd Deere.
Forest fires also besieged neighboring Oregon and Washington.
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More than 1,400 square miles burned this week in Oregon where the hot, windy conditions persist. According to authorities, more than 500,000 people – more than 10% of the state’s population – had to be evacuated.
Oregon officials have not released an exact death toll for the forest fires, but at least four deaths have been reported in the state.
According to the Associated Press, officials there are shocked by the number of simultaneous fires, which stood at 37 on Thursday, according to the state emergency management office.
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Governor Kate Brown said more than 900,000 acres – larger than Rhode Island – were burned in Oregon over a three-day period this week, nearly double the area that burns there in a typical year.
One person was killed in Washington forest fires that scorched nearly 937 square miles.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.