Ferocious winds whip California fires as death toll rises to 31

PARADISE, California - The death toll from wildfires raging in California rose to 31 on Sunday after six more people were found killed in what was poised to become the deadliest wildfire in state history.

Officials said the bodies of five people were found in their burned-out homes and the sixth was found in a vehicle in northern California's Camp Fire, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told reporters on Sunday evening.

More than 200 people are still unaccounted for, Honea said.

Hot dry winds expected to blow until Tuesday whipped up the flames and heightened the urgency of evacuation orders, officials said.

"We are entering a new normal. The rate of spread is exponentially more than it used to be," said Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen, noting at a news conference that California's fires in 2018 grow far more quickly than they did even 10 years ago.

Several officials urged residents to heed evacuation orders, noting they themselves had followed orders to leave their homes for safety.

READ: Severe 'devil winds' expected to whip up deadly California blazes

"Winds are already blowing. They are going to blow for the next three days. Your house can be rebuilt but you can't bring your life back," said Chief Daryl Osby of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

The Camp Fire burned down more than 6,700 homes and businesses in Paradise, more structures than any other California wildfire on record, and the death toll, which could rise, also makes it one of the deadliest.

Its death toll now equals that of the Griffith Park Fire in 1933, the deadliest wildfire on record in California.

Winds of up to 64km/h were forecast to blow in the north and gusts of up to 113km/h, the so-called Santa Ana "devil wind," were expected in Southern California.

Governor Jerry Brown asked US President Donald Trump to declare a major disaster to bolster the emergency response and help residents recover.

"We're putting everything we've got into the fight against these fires and this request ensures communities on the front lines get additional federal aid," Brown's letter said.

Source
Reuters