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Thursday Updates: Death Toll Rises To 31 In California Wildfires

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Berkeley firefighter Matt George picks through the ash of a Santa Rosa neighborhood looking for smoldering materials Oct. 12, 2017. "It's unbelievable, the destruction," he says.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

UPDATE 6:17 p.m.: (AP) - 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 29 people by itself.

While no one fire currently burning has killed that many, collectively this is the deadliest series of simultaneous fires in the state since records have been kept.

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

UPDATE 4:58 p.m.: (AP) - 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.


UPDATE 4:52 p.m.: Yuba County released an initial list of homes lost to fire Thursday afternoon.


UPDATE 2:55 p.m.: (AP) - Yuba County Sheriff Steve Durfor confirmed Thursday that at least four people have been killed in the Cascade Fire, bringing the state's death toll to 29.

The Cascade Fire has destroyed more than 100 homes and displaced 2,500 people.

The fires currently devastating Northern California are now the deadliest fire outbreak in California since 29 people died in Los Angeles in 1933.

Earlier in the day, officials from Sonoma County said recovery teams, some with cadaver dogs, will start searching for bodies in some areas devastated by wildfires.

Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano said 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 said officials have found some bodies almost completely intact but other remains are "nothing more than ash and bones."


UPDATE 12:52 p.m.: In a press conference Thursday morning, Yuba County Sheriff Steven Durfor said the county is investigating two deaths as likely caused by wildfires. The county already has confirmed two other deaths as caused by fires.


UPDATE 11:51 a.m.: Two more deaths in Mendocino County due to wildfires brings the total in Northern California to 26, according to CAL FIRE Director Ken Pimlott.

"The last several days have not been fied with a lot of good news," Pimlott said. "We are a long way from being done with this catastrophe."

Pimlott said progress is being made on most fires, including the Atlass and Tubbs fires in Napa and Sonoma counties. He was most pleased with the containment on the Wind Complex fires in Butte, Nevada and Yuba counties.

"Those fires are becoming significantly contained," Pimlott said, noting the Cascade Fire is now 45 percent contained and the McCourtney Fire is 89 percent contained.

"As those fires are wrapped up, those resources will be redeployed throughout the state," Pimlott said.

CAL FIRE is anticipating more fires across the state this weekend as wind and humidity conditions continue to make firefighting difficult.

"There will be critical dry humidity and windy conditions over the weekend," he said. "Fires could burn erratically."

Pimlott said California is receving assistance from eight U.S. states and Australia, and is requesting additional federal resources.


UPDATE 11:30 a.m.: Cal OES will give a live update on the statewide wildfire response. Watch live below:


UPDATE 10:10 a.m.: (AP)- Officials say fire crews have made progress on the deadliest of two dozen fires burning in Northern California.

Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant said Thursday the blaze burning in Sonoma County is 10 percent contained.

But he warns that potential gusty winds forecast to hit the area later in the day could hamper firefighting efforts.

Since it began Sunday, the wildfire in Sonoma County killed 14 people. Blazes burning in three other Northern California counties have killed 10 people.

Entire cities have evacuated in anticipation of the next round of flames, their streets empty and the only motion coming from ashes falling like snowflakes.

1012Fire NumbersNumbers last updated Oct. 12 at 10:15 a.m. 

Check here for latest evacuation updates. 


California Fires Grew A Bit Overnight

(AP) - A fire official says blazes burning in Northern California grew a bit overnight but it was not as dramatic as prior days.

However, that could change Thursday as winds gusting to 45 mph and dry air are expected to pummel areas north of San Francisco where at least 23 people have died and at least 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Scott McLean told Oakland television station KTVU that winds were calm early Thursday and firefighters had made some gains overnight.

Thousands of firefighters are battling at least 22 fires spanning more than 169,600 acres for a fourth day.

Authorities in Sonoma County have issued a mandatory evacuation order because of wildfires. The order is for the area of 7th Street East, from Old Winery Road to the dead end and on Castle Road from Old Winery Road to the dead end. And an evacuation advisory has been issued for areas North of Jameson Canyon Road from the Solano/Napa County Line to Interstate 80, North of Interstate 80 between Jameson Canyon Road and Suisun Valley Road, and West of Suisun Valley Road between Interstate 80 and the Solano/Napa County line.

Check here for latest evacuation updates. 

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