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California's Deadliest Fire Leaves 42 Dead, Hundreds Missing
At least 42 people have been killed in a wildfire raging in northern California, making it the deadliest wildfire in the state's history.
Authorities say 228 more are unaccounted for, days after the so-called Camp Fire swept over the town of Paradise, all but obliterating the area, which was home to 27,000 people.
"This is an unprecedented event," Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told reporters. "And if you've been up there you also know the magnitude of the scene that we're dealing with, and I want to recover as many remains as we possibly can as soon as we possibly can, because I understand the toll that it takes on people not knowing what became of their loved ones."
Authorities moved to set up a rapid DNA analysis system and brought in cadaver dogs and mobile morgues in hopes of finding and identifying more victims.
In the vast state along the Pacific Ocean, officials said that 250,000 residents had been displaced as winds of up to 100 kilometers an hour and tinder dry conditions helped fuel blazes that torched more than 1,000 square kilometers of forest lands, residential communities and business districts.
In Paradise alone, more than 7,600 homes and other structures were destroyed, with the wildfires in the region about 280 kilometers north of San Francisco expanding to 50,500 hectares.
Two smaller fires in southern California have killed two people.
Late Monday, President Donald Trump declared the fires "a major disaster," freeing up federal funding for those affected by the blazes.
On Tuesday, he said, "We mourn the lives of those lost and we pray for the victims, and there were more victims than anyone would think possible. We will do everything in our power to support and protect our fellow citizens in harm's way."
Forecasters warned the dry, windy conditions fueling the fires will be in place through at least Tuesday. Rainfall that could help firefighters gain momentum against the blazes is not forecast for at least a week in either part of the state.
California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency and asked for financial aid from the federal government in Washington.
Over the weekend, Trump threatened to cut off government assistance to California because of what he said was poor forest management in the state, the most populous in the United States. He made no mention of years-long drought conditions in California. Brown said federal and state governments could improve forest management, but said climate change with warmer temperatures was a bigger source of the fire hazard.
On Monday, Trump praised the several thousand firefighters battling the blazes, saying, "The California Fire Fighters, [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] and First Responders are amazing and very brave. Thank you and God Bless you all!"
Thousands of fire personnel are trying to contain the Camp Fire burning north of the state capital, Sacramento. As of Tuesday, the blaze, which began last week, was 30 percent contained.
In southern California, a pair of fires erupted last week — the Woolsey Fire and the nearby Hill Fire. Firefighters have been able to bring the Hill Fire to 85 percent containment, while the Woolsey Fire was 30 percent contained on Tuesday.
Fire officials lifted some evacuation orders Monday while warning southern California residents to remain vigilant as strong winds fanned new fires.
Several celebrities, including singers Neil Young and Miley Cyrus, were among those who lost their homes.