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CHICO, Calif. (AP) — The potential magnitude of the wildfire disaster in Northern California escalated as officials raised the death toll to 63 and released a missing-persons list with 631 names on it more than a week after the flames swept through.
The fast-growing roster of people unaccounted for probably includes some who fled the blaze and do not realize they have been reported missing, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said late Thursday. He said he made the list public in the hope that people will see they are on it and let authorities know they are OK.
Chaos - Honea - Crisis - Week - Flames
“The chaos that we were dealing with was extraordinary,” Honea said of the crisis last week, when the flames razed the town of Paradise and outlying areas in what has proved to be the nation’s deadliest wildfire in a century. “Now we’re trying to go back out and make sure that we’re accounting for everyone.” Firefighters continued gaining ground against the 222-square mile (575-square-kilometer) blaze, which was reported 45 percent contained Friday. It destroyed 9,700 houses and 144 apartment buildings, the state fire agency said.
Rain in the forecast Tuesday night could help knock down the flames but also complicate efforts by more 450 searchers to find human remains in the ashes. In some cases, search crews are finding little more than bones and bone fragments. Some 52,000 people have been displaced to shelters, the motels, the homes of friends and relatives, and a Walmart parking lot and an adjacent field in Chico, a dozen miles away from the ashes.
Parking - Lot - Evacuees - Homes - Neighbors
At the vast parking lot, evacuees wondered if they still have homes, if their neighbors are still alive, and where they will go from here.
“It’s cold and scary,” said Lilly Batres, 13, one of the few children there, who fled with her family from the forested...
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