With 42 confirmed dead, Camp Fire is deadliest in California history. Four identified, hundreds still missing

The death toll from the Camp Fire reached 42 Monday, making the Northern California blaze the deadliest fire in state history.

The number of fatalities far outstrips the 1933 Griffith Park Fire that killed 29 people in Los Angeles. With hundreds still reported missing in Butte County, the total is expected to grow.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said 13 more victims were found Monday, 10 in the Paradise area and three in Concow. Honea said eight of the victims were found inside homes, the others outside.

Four of the victims have been identified, and relatives of three had been notified as of Monday, Honea said. The three whose names were released were Jesus “Zeus” Fernandez, 48, of Concow; Carl Wiley, 77, of Magalia; and Ernest Foss, 65, of Paradise.

Camp Fire in Butte County

Red circles on this live-updating map are actively burning areas, as detected by satellite. Orange circles have burned in the past 12 to 24 hours, and yellow circles have burned within the past 48 hours. Yellow areas represent the fire perimeter.
Source: National Interagency Fire Center

Fernandez had a beloved German Shepard named King, said Myrna Pascua, a friend who had been active on social media for days searching for him. She said Fernandez’s son was notified Monday night that he was found pinned between two cars.

“We kind of had a bad feeling about it and I can’t even think right now,” Pascua said. “It’s a sad situation but at least we have an answer, because it was very difficult not having an answer all these days.”

The Camp Fire has devastated the town of Paradise and has destroyed at least 7,177 structures, most of them homes, making it the most destructive blaze in state history measured by the number of structures destroyed.

President Trump, who on Saturday criticized California officials for “gross mismanagement” of forests, tweeted late Monday that he had approved emergency federal aid for the state.

“I just approved an expedited request for a Major Disaster Declaration for the State of California,” the president tweeted. “Wanted to respond quickly in order to alleviate some of the incredible suffering going on. I am with you all the way. God Bless all of the victims and families affected.”

Search teams were looking for more remains throughout the burned out area of Paradise Monday, which once had a population of about 27,000 residents, and in surrounding hill towns. The bodies of many victims have been reduced to little more than ash, requiring authorities to bring in special forensics teams to collect remains, and necessitating DNA testing to identify the dead.

At the scene of the destroyed Skyway Villa Mobile Home and RV park Monday, a dozen searchers were sifting through the ashes, including Noelle Francis of Butte County Search and Rescue, who was accompanied by a Labrador Retriever named “Spinner.”

“She’s a good kid,” Francis said of the dog, who was blissfully unaware of the deadly serious task she was undertaking.

Families desperate for clues about the well-being of loved ones have taken to social media since Thursday looking for information.

Steve Mixon was asking for help through Twitter to find his wife’s aunt’s elderly parents, Dorothy and Lou Herrera. Mixon fears they died in their home on Clearview Drive.

He said the family had visited every official shelter in the area “with no results.” They got a Butte County deputy to go to the address and take a photograph of the home. It showed the couple’s 2003 gold Cadillac CTS burned inside the garage, which had collapsed on top of it, he said.

The couple doesn’t drive, and Dorothy Herrera has dementia, he said, leading him to fear that they both perished. But he doesn’t know.

Honea said his office had received 139 reports of suspicious activity, including 16 reports of looting, but he said that as of Monday no arrests had been made.

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In a neighborhood off the Skyway in Paradise, Keith Mapes propped up hand-painted warnings around the block that read “Looters beware,” “I see you,” and “Looters will be shot.”

Mapes, who has firefighting experience, sent his wife and kids away Thursday as the flames approached. He stayed behind to protect his home and a handful of others, using hoses and hand tools to scratch out fire barriers in the leaves. His house is still standing, but Mapes said the remains of some of his neighbors are in the charred wreckage of a nearby home.

Alone and without power, he said he’s “just sort of trying to safeguard this little bit of real estate that is left.”

He had a semiautomatic handgun tucked into the waistband of his pants. Asked if he carries it all the time, he said, “Bet your ass.”

Michael McGough contributed.

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