On Monday, Butte County Sheriff Kory L. Honea announced that the death toll for the latest wildfires raging in California has now reached 42 — making it the deadliest wildfire in California history. With more than 7,000 structures burned to the ground, the “Camp Fire,” as it’s been dubbed, is also the most destructive fire in the state’s history.
The effort to locate and identify the dead throughout the scorched region of California is now being bolstered by 150 extra search-and-rescue personnel, cadaver dogs, and two portable, temporary morgue units sourced from the Defense Department. These new resources are in addition to the 13 coroner teams already working night and day in the wake of the blaze.
“My sincere hope is that I don’t have to come here each night and report a higher and higher number,” Sheriff Honea said. However, other officials have predicted that the death toll will likely continue to rise. There are currently more than 200 residents that the fire department has listed as “missing.” While some likely evacuated, search teams expect to find the remains of some of those people in the ashes left by the fire.
The Camp Fire is now considered to be about 30% contained, with around 15,500 structures still at risk. It isn’t the only massive fire Californians are contending with, however. The Woolsey Fire has already burnt 96,314 acres of land and destroyed more than 400 homes. As of Tuesday, that fire is considered to be only 35% contained. Finally, the Hill Fire further south is nearly completely contained after burning 4,531 acres.
With all three fires continuing to burn, firefighting teams are working tirelessly not only to contain them, but also to keep people safe as they flee the inferno. Patients at Feather River Hospital in Paradise, California had to resort to riding in the cars of hospital staff as they evacuated. Darrell Wilken, a registered nurse on the hospital’s staff, made the dangerous trek with three patients crammed into his car — two of which were in critical condition.
“I didn’t want to lose anybody,” Wilken said. “We have not just an obligation to our patients, but we have an obligation to humanity. We have to do our jobs, regardless of adverse conditions.”
Wilken said the windows in his car got too hot to touch as they made their way to safety — a statement supported by dramatic footage making its way onto the internet from all over the area. Firefighters have turned to helicopters to help douse the flames encroaching on major highways as residents continue to pour through them to escape the blaze.
Watch the dramatic footage below: