Northern California Wildfire Death Toll Now At 31

SONOMA (CBS13/AP) – The latest on the wildfires burning in Northern California:

6:15 p.m.

Northern California’s wildfires have now killed 31 people – making this the deadliest week of wildfires in state history.

Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano said Thursday night that two more people have been confirmed dead there. That raises the statewide death total from 29 to 31.

The Oakland Hills fire of 1991 killed 25 people by itself, and the Griffith Park fire in Los Angeles in 1933 killed 29.

While no single fire currently burning has killed as many as those, state fire Deputy Director Daniel Berlant says collectively this is the deadliest series of simultaneous fires in the state in recorded history.

The blazes, most of them in wine country, broke out almost all at once on Sunday night.

4:10 p.m.

California’s deadly wildfires have claimed the home of ‘Peanuts’ creator Charles Schulz but his widow has escaped the flames.

Schulz’s son, Monte Schulz, says a fire on Monday torched the Santa Rosa homes of his stepmother, 78-year-old Jean Schulz, and his brother, Craig Schulz.

She’s staying with other relatives.

Schulz says he’s been told the home where his famous cartoonist father died and all the memorabilia in it are gone.

However, most of his father’s original artwork is in the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, and so far that’s escaped the flames.

2:40 p.m.

Authorities in Northern California say at least four people were killed by a wildfire burning in California’s Sierra Nevada foothills, bringing the state’s death toll to 29.

Yuba County Sheriff Steve Durfor confirmed Thursday that the four have died since a blaze ignited there Sunday night.

The fire is burning 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of several blazes in wine country that also broke out Sunday night and that have killed 25 people.

The blaze in the foothills has destroyed more than 100 homes and displaced 2,500 people.

Fire officials say it has charred 16 square miles (41 square kilometers) but fire crews overnight made significant progress and it’s 45 percent contained.

2:30 p.m.

Search-and-rescue teams, some with cadaver dogs, started looking for bodies Thursday in parts of California wine country devastated by wildfires, authorities said, sounding a warning that more dead were almost sure to emerge from the charred ruins.

At least 26 people have died and some 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed by the blazes, which were well on their way to becoming the deadliest and most destructive in California history.

Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano said officials were still investigating hundreds of reports of missing people and that recovery teams would soon begin conducting “targeted searches” for specific residents at their last known addresses.

“We have found bodies almost completely intact, and we have found bodies that were nothing more than ash and bones,” the sheriff said.

Some remains have been identified using medical devices that turned up in the scorched heaps that were once homes.

11:50 a.m.

A total of 26 people have been confirmed dead in the fires that have ravaged the north state.

Officials with the California Office of Emergency Services said at a Thursday press conference that about 4,800 people are in shelters at the moment. A total of 42 shelters are open around the state.

The additiona fatalities were confirmed after fires in Mendocino and Yuba counties.

More than 8,000 firefighters – about 170 engines from out of state – are helping fight the fires in California.

In total, as of Thursday, 191,437 acres have been burned in the recent wildfires, Cal OES officials say.

11:15 a.m.

California fire officials are investigating downed power lines and other utility equipment failures as possible causes of massive wildfires sweeping through wine country.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokeswoman Janet Upton says it’s unclear if downed power lines and live wires resulted from fires or started them.

She said Thursday that investigators are looking into that and other possible causes.

Jennifer Robison of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. says the utility is focused on restoring power and maintaining safety. She says they will not speculate about the causes of the fires.

She says PG&E will support reviews by any regulator or agency.

10:15 a.m.

Officials say recovery teams, some with cadaver dogs, will start searching for bodies in some areas devastated by wildfires raging in California wine country.

Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano says officials are investigating hundreds of reports of missing people and that recovery teams will start doing targeted searches for bodies Thursday. He warns that identification may be difficult and take some time.

He says officials have found some bodies almost completely intact but other remains are “nothing more than ash and bones.”

Giordano says at least 14 people have been killed Sonoma County, raising the death toll to 24.

9:30 a.m.

One of the California counties hard hit by wildfires this week chose not to use one type of emergency alert service to warn residents of possible danger.

Spokeswoman Jennifer Larocque says Sonoma County considered but did not use the Wireless Emergency Alert which sends a widespread message to cell phones and is sometimes likened to an Amber Alert.

Larocque says because of its broad reach officials concluded the message could panic people who were not in danger and trigger unnecessary evacuations that would snarl traffic and delay emergency vehicles.

Sonoma County did use another emergency alert service that texted thousands of warnings to residents to flee Sunday night. However, nearly 80 cellphone towers were knocked out or badly damaged.

7:25 a.m.

In response to the expanding evacuations due to wildfires in Sonoma and Napa counties, the Red Cross has opened Cal Expo as an additional shelter.

The Red Cross says everyone is welcome at their shelters; people do not need to be American citizens to receive assistance.

Volunteers will work to ensure that everyone – including children, the elderly, and those with special needs – get the best possible help.

To find all open shelters, go to RedCross.org/shelters.

6:10 a.m.

Officials believe at least 111 rural homes have been destroyed in a wildfire that is chewing through brush and timber on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada in California.

It’s one of more than 20 deadly and destructive fires burning across California.

Yuba County spokesman Russ Brown said Thursday that damage estimates are preliminary and crews have had a hard time getting into mountain communities to survey burn areas.

Brown says overnight winds lessened somewhat, giving firefighters an edge as they beat back the fire that broke out Sunday north of Sacramento.

The blaze that has consumed nearly 19 square miles (49 square kilometers) was 20 percent contained Wednesday night.

At least 23 people have died and thousands of homes have been destroyed in other fires north of San Francisco.

TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or Redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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