At least 50 people have been killed in the wildfires raging at both ends of California.
Officials have warned the toll could rise further as emergency workers comb through the charred debris of incinerated neighborhoods. More than 200 people remain missing in Northern California, where the Camp fire — already considered the deadliest and most destructive single wildfire in California’s recorded history — continues to blaze.
Authorities have said they will need time to identify many of the dead. A few victims have been publicly identified. Here are some of their stories.
Ernie Foss, 63, of Paradise
Ernest “Ernie” Foss Jr., a rock ‘n’ roll musician, died in the Camp fire, the Butte County Sheriff’s Office confirmed. The 63-year-old, who had suffered from poor health and was on oxygen, was found outside his home in Paradise next to his service dog, Bernice, who also died in the blaze.
Foss’s daughter, Angela Loo, said her dad, a San Francisco native who moved to Paradise eight years ago after being priced out of the city, had played a variety of instruments and had a “beautiful voice.” He’d left the band life to raise three children as a single parent, Loo said, but had taught music out of their small Bay Area home.
“I love that he shared his gift of music with me and so many others during his lifetime,” Loo told KTVU-TV.
Foss’ stepson and caretaker, Andrew Burt, who lived in the same Paradise home, remained missing as of Tuesday. “PLEASE continue your prayers and search efforts on his behalf,” Loo said of Burt in a Facebook post. “We will not stop searching.”
John Digby, 78, of Paradise
Air Force veteran John Digby died in his Paradise home during the Camp fire, his son confirmed.
Roman Digby told the Los Angeles Times that his 78-year-old father had been sick in bed last week and likely missed a neighbor’s alert to evacuate. After days of frantic searching, the coroner contacted him to confirm his father’s death, Digby said in a Wednesday tweet.
“I love you, dad,” he wrote.
The younger Digby, who lives in Minnesota described his dad as a soft-spoken and “very kindhearted man,” and told the Owatonna People’s Press that he would wake up to a text from him every day.
“Good morning, have a great day,” it would read.
Jesus Fernandez, 48, Concow
@isthisyourpet "King" a German Shepard is #Missing with his owner Jesus "Zeus" Fernandez. They lived at 3876 Broken Glass Cir Concow just above the top/end of Cirby Creek Rd. No one has seen either of them since the fire started. #CampFire #CampFireJamesWoods #WelfareCheck pic.twitter.com/HmajBOCCPP— Myrna L. Pascua P.C. (@AZREI) November 12, 2018
Jesus Fernandez, affectionately called “Zeus” by his friends, died in the Camp fire, Butte County officials confirmed.
A family friend, Myrna Pascua, who’d issued an urgent plea for information about Fernandez on social media, remembered the man as the “epitome of determination, respect, loyalty and perseverance.”
“A tireless provider, a dependable and loyal friend, a considerate neighbor, and loving father, he will be sorely missed by all who knew him,” Pascua told The Associated Press.
Carl Wiley, 77, of Magalia
The Butte County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that 77-year-old Carl Wiley was also killed in the Camp fire.
His son, James Wiley, told AP that his dad, whom he hadn’t seen in several years, was a veteran and former tire recapper. The family had lived in Alaska before moving to Butte County decades ago, he said.
Phyllis Salazar, 72, and Christopher Salazar, 76, of Paradise
Phyllis and Chris Salazar were killed in their home in Paradise during the Camp fire, family members confirmed.
The couple, both in their 70s, had fulfilled their dream of having a big family, the Los Angeles Times reported. They raised a biological son, five adopted children and three foster children.
“There were so many of us that it was like a party at the house every day,” foster daughter Anita Razo told the paper.
Razo said on Twitter on Wednesday that the sheriff’s department had confirmed the deaths of her foster parents.
“They did not make it out of their home,” she wrote.
Debbe Morningstar, 65, Paradise
Debbe Morningstar died in her home during the Camp fire, family members confirmed to the Los Angeles Times.
Morningstar, a retired secretary, was a lover of music. Her niece, Alison Holguin, remembered Morningstar playing the piano while singing songs with her three sisters during family get-togethers. Holguin recalled the four siblings singing and talking and laughing “for hours on end.”
Margaret Rummens, Holguin’s mother, paid tribute to her late sister on Facebook on Tuesday.
“It is with great sadness that I must announce that my sister Debbe passed away in the Paradise fire,” Rummens wrote. “Rest In Peace Debbe Morningstar.”
You can help those affected by the wildfires, including families who’ve lost loved ones. Here’s how.
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