63 Dead, 631 Missing in Deadliest, Most Destructive Fire in California History
The death toll from the catastrophic Camp Fire—by far the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history—has now risen to 63, with 631 people still unaccounted for, the Huffington Post reported Friday.
The Butte County Sheriff's Office announced on Thursday that the death toll had risen from Wednesday's figure of 56 after the remains of seven more people were discovered in the wreckage.
The number of missing made a big jump from the 130 people officials said were unaccounted for on Wednesday. Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told reporters at a news briefing that the increase was a result of officials looking tirelessly through reports after Wednesday's announcement, and many of the missing could be safely in shelters.
"The reason that that number went up is because after they went up, [emergency officials] didn't stop working, they continued to work into the night," Honea told reporters, according to The Huffington Post. "I'm fine with that update, because I would rather get that information out than wait too much longer to do that."
Honea told people to check the list of those reported missing to make sure they aren't on it.
"I want you to understand that there are a lot of people displaced and there are a lot of people who don't know we're looking for them," Honea said.
The Camp Fire has burned more than 11,800 structures so far, including 9,700 homes. The destruction has displaced more than 52,000 people in an area already facing a housing shortage, The Sacramento Bee reported.
Local officials told The Sacramento Bee that the fire could force migration comparable to what happened during the Dust Bowl during the 1930s, though on a smaller scale.
When asked if Butte County faced a humanitarian crisis, the executive director of the county's housing office Ed Mayer said, "We're on the edge."
Mayer said that 6,000 to 7,000 households were likely to be permanently displaced by the fire. The county has the means to rehouse only 800 to 1,000 households permanently, and officials are overwhelmed when it comes to short-term options.
"We could make the choice to put them in temporary (shelters) to try to absorb those households for three to five years, meaning refugee camps and trying to keep our community together. That's one choice," Mayer said. "The other choice is we say, 'We can't do it, we don't have the ability (to find shelters) and go fend for yourselves.'"
Conditions in the temporary shelters that do exist also aren't entirely healthy. A norovirus outbreak has sickened 141 people at four Butte County shelters, the county announced Thursday.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said it did not yet have a plan to house the survivors of the fire, but the fact that President Donald Trump signed a major emergency declaration for the fire Monday means that federal funds can now flow towards recovery efforts.
"We don't have a housing plan right this second," FEMA spokeswoman Brandi Richard said Tuesday, according to The Sacramento Bee. "That's something the state and local officials and FEMA teams are working on."
The fire has now burned 141,000 acres and is 40 percent contained, according to the most recent Cal Fire update.
The dry, windy conditions that fanned the flames are expected to persist, though National Weather Service meteorologist Aviva Braun said there could be rain by the end of next week, the Huffington Post reported.
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The move comes after regional authorities declared a state of emergency over the weekend after sightings of more than 50 bears in the town of Belushya Guba since December.
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"The number of buildings in the world is going to double by 2060. It's like we're going to build a new New York City every month for the next 40 years," he said.
By Shana Udvardy
After a dearth of action on climate change and a record year of extreme events in 2017, the inclusion of climate change policies within the annual legislation Congress considers to outline its defense spending priorities (the National Defense Authorization Act) for fiscal year 2018 was welcome progress. House and Senate leaders pushed to include language that mandated that the Department of Defense (DoD) incorporate climate change in their facility planning (see more on what this section of the bill does here and here) as well as issue a report on the impacts of climate change on military installations. Unfortunately, what DoD produced fell far short of what was mandated.
Trump is losing his rallying cry to save coal. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) voted on Thursday to retire two coal-fired power plants in the next few years despite a plea from the president to keep one of the plants open.
Earlier this week, the president posted an oddly specific tweet that urged the government-owned utility to save the 49-year-old Paradise 3 plant in Kentucky. It so happens that the facility burns coal supplied by Murray Energy Corporation, whose CEO is Robert Murray, is a major Trump donor.