California Wildfires Kill 31; Deadliest Week Of Wildfires In State History
Thomas Fire Rages Out of Control
Crews in Southern California are struggling to get control of a wildfire torching Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.
At a Glance
With 31 confirmed deaths in Northern California, this has been the deadliest week of wildfires in state history.
More evacuations were ordered Wednesday as the wildfires advanced on towns.
Officials said nearly 400 people are still missing; 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed.
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In what has been the deadliest week of wildfires in California history, officials said Thursday night that the death toll had risen to 31 with the discovery of two more bodies in Sonoma County.
The Northern California infernos have now killed more people than the Oakland Hills fire of 1991, which singlehandedly killed 29, according to the Associated Press. Several deadly wildfires were sparked at virtually the same time, most of which started in the region's Wine Country, on Sunday night, the report added.
Nearly 400 people are still missing in Sonoma County as firefighters battle the 53-square-mile Tubbs fire.
Officials have fielded more than 1,000 reports of missing residents and located at least 600, Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano told reporters Thursday afternoon. With more than 20 detectives on the ground investigating each of the reports, Giordano also said there may be many duplicates in the list, while many others may have found safety but have yet to contact officials or loved ones.
The Tubbs fire is just one of nearly two dozen wildfires burning through California, fueled by the return of strong winds.
"Make no mistake, this is a serious, critical, catastrophic event," said Ken Pimlott, chief of the department.
The series of fires is already among the worst in California history, and Pimlott says the situation is "going to continue to get worse before it gets better."
Firefighters will be struggling with windy conditions through the weekend, said weather.com meteorologist Linda Lam, and could see gusts up to 45 mph over the next several days.
Crews have made little headway on the fires, which turned entire Northern California neighborhoods to ash and destroyed at least 3,500 homes and businesses. The blazes have left at least 180 people injured, while more than 4,400 people were staying in shelters Wednesday.
The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office has confirmed 17 fire-related deaths. Officials in Mendocino County have confirmed eight deaths there in connection with the fires.
In Yuba County, sheriff's deputies discovered a body inside a burned residence in Loma Rica on Tuesday. According to a statement from the sheriff's office, the remains were discovered during a welfare check conducted after a citizen reported a family friend missing at that location following the Cascade Fire evacuations.
Another Yuba County resident died while trying to flee the flames in her vehicle, the county's coroner confirmed Tuesday to KCRA.com. Two other deaths were announced in Yuba County Thursday afternoon, and all four deaths in the county have been blamed on the Cascade fire.