California Fires Claim 31 Lives, Destroy 7,000 Structures, As The Blaze Continues

The California Camp Fire rages in the hills near Oroville
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The most destructive fires in California’s history continue to rage on in both northern and southern parts of the state. By Sunday night, thousands of homes had been engulfed by the massive inferno, and the rise of strong winds across California threatened to add to the tally as firefighters desperately fought the flames.

According to ABC News, the death toll of the fires has risen to 31, after six people were found dead on Sunday.

“This week, California has experienced the most destructive fires we have seen in its history. There are 196,000 acres burned, thousands of homes and dozens of lives lost,” Chief Scott Jalbert of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said early on Sunday.

The worst of the fires is the Camp Fire, which so far has destroyed 109,000 acres, razed 6,453 homes, and a further 260 commercial structures in Northern California’s Butte County. Twenty-nine civilians have died in that particular blaze. The fire started on Thursday, and quickly with scorched the communities in the Sierra foothills. The town of Paradise was also nearly leveled in the inferno.

So far, at least five firefighters have also been injured as they continue to battle against the blaze.

By Sunday, the fire was still only 25 percent contained.

The other two fatalities in the fire came from the Woolsey Fire in Southern California.

Officials expect the Camp Fire to continue to threaten the surrounding areas at this stage, with red flag warnings issued for parts of Northern California, including the regions around the state capital of Sacramento and the city of San Jose. So far, approximately 149,000 people have had to evacuate their California homes as the threat of the fires continue to rage.

The wind is expected to wreak havoc with the fight going into Monday, particularly across the eastern foothills and western slopes of the northern Sierra Nevada mountain range, and the Sacramento Valley.

Thousands who evacuated have also learned that their homes and everything they own has been lost to the blaze. Shawn Field of Paradise heard the news on Sunday, after he and his son were forced to evacuate on Thursday with just 10 minutes to pack some essentials as they fled the approaching inferno.

Thousand Oaks, a community devastated by the actions of Ian David Long on Wednesday night, is also under threat from a nearby fire. The Hill Fire is estimated to be approximately 70 percent contained at this point, but Tony Imbrenda, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Fire Department, warned that the wind is expected to keep the fire alive in the coming days. The two victims of the fire where found inside a vehicle, and officials suspect the driver had become disoriented in the smoke while trying to escape the blaze.