The death toll in Northern California’s Camp fire rose once again on Thursday to 63 as rescue workers continue to search through the devastation left by the state’s deadliest blaze in history, authorities said.
A further 631 people remained unaccounted for, a vast increase from just a day prior when officials said 130 people were missing. The fire has scorched some 141,000 acres and is 40 percent contained.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told those gathered at a news briefing that the number of missing persons reflected ongoing work by emergency response personnel sifting through reports, but said many of the unaccounted for may simply be displaced in shelters throughout the region. He urged people to look at the list of those unaccounted for and to let authorities know if they are safe.
“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 said. “I’m fine with that update, because I would rather get that information out than wait too much longer to do that.”
He continued: “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 that while recovery efforts remain difficult, increased resources have helped “bring more order to the chaos that we’re dealing with.”
Brent Newman, chief of the California Highway Patrol’s Valley Division, said officials were “more committed than we’ve ever been,” adding that it had been a tough week, but authorities were set on providing the community “outstanding support” throughout the recovery efforts.
More than 11,800 structures have been destroyed by the fire, including 9,700 homes, and officials cautioned that winds and dry conditions were expected to continue. Aviva Braun, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said Wednesday that the agency expected some rain to arrive by the end of next week.
President Donald Trump is expected to visit the areas affected by the fire, although it’s unclear where exactly he’s heading. The president has been criticized for initially responding to the fire by blaming the conflagrations on “poor” forest management and threatening to cut off federal payments.
In Southern California, which has also been ablaze this month, Los Angeles County Fire Department officials said Thursday night that the Woolsey fire had grown to more than 98,000 acres, but was 62 percent contained.