FILE - In this Nov. 10, 2018, file photo, Arissa Harvey, 16, left, and her sister Arianne Harvey sit on the bed of a truck as they drive through their neighborhood burned in a wildfire in Paradise, Calif. The Harvey family was living in an RV near where her family's home was destroyed by the fire. For a while, Phillip and Krystin Harvey, who lost their mobile home, had been staying with the sisters and their other teenage daughter in the camper, trying to hang on to a piece of the life they had known. Eventually the family gave up and moved to Oroville, Calif., to stay with friends to have some stability and security, their cousins Patrick Knuthson said. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

The Latest: Sheriff: Wildfire death toll rises to 79

November 20, 2018 - 1:37 am

PARADISE, Calif. (AP) — The Latest on California's wildfires (all times local):

7:30 p.m.

A Northern California sheriff says two more sets of human remains were found Monday, bringing the total number killed in a devastating California wildfire to 79.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea says the list of names of those unaccounted for after a deadly wildfire has dropped to around 700.

He says that's about 300 fewer than what was posted at the start of Monday.

Authorities stressed that many of the people on the list may be safe and unaware they have been reported missing.

The so-called Camp Fire swept through the rural town of Paradise on Nov. 8. It has destroyed nearly 12,000 homes.


3:20 p.m.

Authorities in Northern California are lifting mandatory orders for communities south and northwest of a deadly blaze that decimated the town of Paradise.

The Butte County Sheriff's Office said Monday several communities near Paradise can be re-entered, but it urged residents to make sure they have food, water and fuel in their vehicles and to avoid using the roads as much as possible.

Officials say fire crews are still in the area working to clear downed utility poles, burned trees and other hazards.

Cal Fire officials say the blaze has destroyed nearly 300 apartment buildings and more than 10,000 homes.

The fire has charred 236 square miles (611 square kilometers) since it ignited Nov. 8.

It continues to burn in steep, rugged terrain in Plumas National Forest.


2:30 p.m.

Fire officials say two men were arrested on suspicion of burglarizing a fire station during a wildfire that decimated a Northern California town.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said Monday Robert DePalma and William Erlbacher were arrested on charges of looting, stealing a vehicle and being in possession of stolen property.

The department says the Concow men were booked into Butte County Jail on $250,000 bail. No information on attorneys for the men was immediately available.

The blaze that started on Nov. 8 leveled the town of Paradise and heavily damaged the communities of Magalia and Concow. The fire continues to burn Monday in steep, rugged terrain in the Plumas National Forest.

Authorities last week arrested five men and a woman six suspected of looting evacuated homes.


1:50 p.m.

Alcatraz Island, the iconic cable cars and other famous San Francisco Bay Area attractions have been closed because of bad air quality from wildfires in Northern California.

Muir Woods, Oakland Zoo and the just-opened holiday ice rink at San Francisco's Embarcadero Center were also closed Monday.

Many of the sites have been shut down for several days because of choking smoke from a deadly wildfire in Paradise, about 180 miles (290 kilometers) away.

The attractions said they hoped to reopen Tuesday but would evaluate air quality levels before deciding.

Several San Francisco museums offered free admission over the weekend to give the public options for indoor activities.


1:20 p.m.

It's been days since Christina Taft provided a DNA sample to officials so they could try to identify remains that likely belong to her mother, but Taft hasn't received official confirmation of her death in the Northern California fire.

The 25-year-old Paradise resident says she's been frustrated by what she feels is a lack of communication from Butte County officials.

She says authorities told her they found the remains last week and asked for the DNA sample. She went to the sheriff's office to give a cheek swab.

Taft says she's been unable to get more information from law enforcement.

Sheriff Kory Honea has said the department has been overwhelmed by calls from people seeking information on loved ones.

Taft says her 66-year-old mother was a kind woman who did not evacuate her Paradise home because she did not know it was mandatory.


12:40 p.m.

Evacuees are routinely telling shelter workers that people still listed as missing after the deadly Northern California wildfire are actually safe — a situation that underscores the chaotic search for survivors.

Robert James Miles said Monday that he alerted a Red Cross worker over the weekend about eight friends who were incorrectly listed as missing. He said two were at the same shelter where they were reported missing.

Such confusion is hampering authorities as they try to keep track of people displaced from their homes by the deadliest U.S. wildfire in a century.

Nearly 1,000 names are still on a list of people unaccounted for.

Anguished friends and family continue to search online for people they haven't heard from since the blaze began on Nov. 8.


10 a.m.

The National Weather Service says rain predicted for the Northern California decimated by a deadly wildfire could cause wet ash to flow down steep inclines in the mountainous region.

That could complicate the efforts of crews that are searching for human remains, so hundreds of searchers have fanned out in the leveled town of Paradise before rains starting Wednesday. The rain could wash away the remains and turn dusty debris from the fire into mud.

Forecaster Eric Kurth said Monday that storms expected to soak the scorched Paradise area Wednesday and into Thanksgiving weekend could dump at least 4 inches (10 centimeters) of rain.

He says weather projections show the area will see moderate, steady rain. It's still unclear whether there will be heavy rain that could unleash large debris flows and mudslides.

He says forecasters will have a better idea about the storm's strength on Tuesday.


7:45 a.m.

The number of buildings destroyed by Southern California's huge wildfire has risen to 1,500.

Fire officials also report Monday that the count of damaged buildings is now at 341.

Firefighters continue to mop up and patrol the 151-square-mile (391-square-kilometer) burn area in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

The fire erupted Nov. 8 and was swept by powerful winds through suburbs and wilderness, killing three people and forcing thousands to flee.

Repopulation of evacuated areas continued through the weekend and containment lines were completed around 94 percent of the scorched area.

Rain is in the forecast for Wednesday, and the National Weather Service warns there could be mudslides and rock slides.


7:20 a.m.

Fire officials say the Northern California wildfire that killed at least 77 people continues to burn in rugged terrain but that firefighters have managed to boost their containment of the blaze.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said Monday that the fire is now 66 percent contained. That's up from 60 percent Sunday morning and represents a slight increase from the 65 percent containment reported Sunday night.

The fire has charred 236 square miles (611 square kilometers) since it ignited Nov. 8 near Paradise, a town of 27,000 that was leveled.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said Sunday that about 1,000 names remain on a list of people who have not been located.

Rain is forecast for Wednesday in the Paradise area, which could help the 5,000 firefighters battling the blaze make more progress.

But officials say they worry rain could complicate the efforts of the crews searching for human remains.


12 a.m.

Rain in the forecast could bring relief for those working to tame a devastating Northern California fire and frustration for those searching for remains of victims.

The search for bodies or bone fragments left behind in the so-called Camp Fire took on new urgency Sunday.

Hundreds of searchers fanned out to poke through the ashen rubble in Paradise before rains can wash away signs of the dead or turn the dusty debris into a thick paste.

Authorities say at least 77 people have died in the deadliest U.S. wildfire in a century.

Search teams in white coveralls, hard hats and masks used sticks to move aside debris and focused on vehicles, bathtubs and what was left of mattresses while a cadaver dog sniffed for clues.

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