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article imageAt least 44 people have died in destructive California wildfires

By Karen Graham     Nov 13, 2018 in Environment
Fueled by blustery winds and parched vegetation, two massive fires burning in California both grew overnight, even as exhausted firefighters worked to extend containment lines. Today, the winds are expected to return.
The death toll from the wildfires in California has reached 44, with 42 deaths confirmed so far in the Camp Fire that nearly leveled the town of Paradise - and two deaths in Southern California in the Woolsey Fire.
Paradise was once a town of 27,000 people, but now, coroner teams, many accompanied by a chaplain have fanned out across the burned-out landscape - searching, visiting dozens of addresses belonging to people reported as missing. Searchers have a system.
If no car is left in the driveway, this is good. One burned-out car is an ominous sign, requiring closer scrutiny. If several burned-out cars are found, this is a sign that extra vigilance is needed. If remains are found, a call goes out and yellow police tape goes up. This is when the blue body bag appears.
California's Volunteer Inmate Firefighters at work battling to control the Woolsey Fire near Lo...
California's Volunteer Inmate Firefighters at work battling to control the Woolsey Fire near Los Angeles
Frederic J. BROWN, AFP
With hundreds of people still unaccounted for, more coroner's units are expected to arrive today, along with an additional two mobile morgue units. It is a grim task and some families and friends have received answers, although it was not what they wanted to hear.
The Butte County Sheriff's Office has received 1,513 calls for welfare checks, and authorities had located 231 people safely by Monday night, officials said.
Santa Ana winds returning
In Southern California, exhausted firefighters are preparing to face another round of fierce winds that are expected to last through Wednesday. They have been battling the Woolsey Fire and containment is now at 30 percent. This is despite two new fires breaking out Monday - within five minutes of each other.
Work continues on Hwy. 166. A single lane of traffic is open.
Work continues on Hwy. 166. A single lane of traffic is open.
Cal Fire
The first fire, near the city of Thousand Oaks, broke out at 10 a.m. and quickly spread and was threatening homes. The second fire ignited about five minutes later in the Rocky Peak area near a densely populated area of Semi Valley on the Los Angeles-Ventura County line.
Both fires were fought with helicopter water drops and firefighters on the ground. Firefighters were able to control the blazes and stop them from spreading to nearby populated areas, officials said. "It just hits home that we are still in significant fire weather and the existing fire is not our only concern," Chief Mark Lorenzen of the Ventura County Fire Department said
The winds, along with higher average annual temperatures, tinder-dry brush and a lack of significant rain make for the "perfect ingredients" for explosive fire growth around the state, said Chris Anthony, a division chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The Woolsey Fire has burned over 80 percent of National Parks Service land in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, officials said, according to the Associated Press. In Southern California, at least 57,000 homes are still under threat, and over 200,000 people are under evacuation orders, according to fire officials.
The Camp Fire update
According to Cal Fire, 125,000 acres have been burned and the fire is 30 percent contained. About 15,000 structures are still threatened and 6,453 residences and 260 commercial structures have been destroyed.
Overnight, firefighters continued to hold established containment lines, actively fighting the fire and working aggressively. putting out direct and indirect fire lines. Steep terrains and hazardous heat and winds in the Sierra foothills impeded firefighting efforts.
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