More Than 600 People Remain Missing in Deadly California Fires as Massive Blazes Claim 66 Lives

Char Adams
More Than 600 People Remain Missing in Deadly California Fires as Massive Blazes Claim 66 Lives

A string of deadly wildfires continue to ravage parts of California on Friday — more than a week after they broke out — and authorities are searching for 630 people who remain missing amid the blazes.

The Northern California Camp Fire has claimed 63 lives, and the Woolsey Fire, burning outside Los Angeles, has killed three people, according to CalFire. As the Woolsey fire was 69 percent contained by the end of the week, the Camp Fire burned on, spreading across 142,000 acres, and was only 45 percent contained on Friday.

Butte County authorities have updated a list of the missing, and the 14-page document now contains 630 names, many of which are residents older than 60 years old. Tamara Ferguson, a nurse at Paradise’s, Adventist Health Feather River says that the city had a large elderly population.

As survivors of the fire have said authorities didn’t do enough to warn residents of the fast-moving blaze, Christina Taft told NBS News that her 67-year-old mother Victoria — who has been missing since the start of the Camp Fire — didn’t get the proper alert.

“She didn’t expect it to be that bad. She expected someone would be calling, or something, if it got bad. But they didn’t,” Taft said. “They were negligent. They just let them go. There is a reason all these people are dead.”

On Thursday, Butte County Sheriff’s Office deputies announced online that a total of seven bodies were found in Paradise, Magalia and Concow. That day, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea invited relatives of the missing to bring DNA samples to the sheriff’s office in Oroville to help find the lost fire victims, according to CNN.

“This is a daunting task,” Butte County Sheriff’s Investigations Sgt. Steve Collins said, according to CNN. “We feel really bad for the people who don’t know what happened to their loved ones and our hearts go out to them. We want to give them some answers.”

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Of the 66 deaths, 63 have occurred in Northern California as a result of the massive Camp Fire — the deadliest fire in the state’s history.

More than 450 people and 22 cadaver dogs are involved in searches for the missing in Paradise, Magalia and Concow, authorities said, according to CNN. After remains are found, coroners are sent to the area to recover the bodies.

“They are going to be searching vehicles that have been burned. They’ll be searching residences that have been burned,” Collins said, according to CNN. “Checking around the residences … our mission is to find the victims from this fire, recover them and get them identified and notify the families to give them some answers.”

Neva Rodrigues told the Sacramento Bee that she plans to submit a DNA sample to confirm remains that authorities believe to be her father, 74-year-old Gerald “Jerry” Rodrigues.

“I’m really, really hoping that he’s not just laying there up under ashes and debris while we all sit here on pins and needles waiting for the fate of my father,” she told the publication.

Honea has urged those whose names have been placed on the missing persons list incorrectly to come forward.

“If your name is on the list, it means that someone is looking for you,” the sheriff said, according to the Bee. “Let us know that you’re okay, so that we can stop our search for you and start looking for someone else.”

To help victims of the California wildfires, visit the Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation, the California Fire Foundation and the American Red Cross, for more information.