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miércoles, 14 de noviembre de 2018

Paradise Lost in the aftermath of the Camp Fire

Fire crews in northern California seized on improved weather conditions on Wednesday in their six-day-old battle to suppress the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in state history as National Guard troops were called in to help search for victims.

The confirmed death toll from the Camp Fire stood at 48 as the footprint of the fire grew by 5,000 acres to 135,000 acres (55,000 hectares), even as diminished winds and rising humidity allowed firefighters to carve containment lines around more than a third of the perimeter. 

“Progress is being made,” said Ken Pimlott, Director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) at a news conference flanked by Governor Jerry Brown, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and other officials.

The escalating search for additional human remains in the fire zone is focused on what little is left of Paradise, California, in the Sierra foothills about 175 miles (280 km) north of San Francisco, which was mostly incinerated last Thursday.

More than 8,800 buildings, most of them houses, burned to the ground in and around Paradise, a hamlet once home to 27,000 people. An estimated 50,000 people remained under evacuation orders.

“This is one of the worst disasters I’ve seen in my career, hands down,” Brock Long, Head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told reporters in the nearby city of Chico.

Added Zinke, “This is the worst fire I have seen. And this is from a kid who grew up in Montana.”

The killer blaze, fueled by thick, drought-desiccated scrub, has capped two back-to-back catastrophic wildfire seasons in California that scientists largely attribute to prolonged drought they say is symptomatic of climate change.

President Donald Trump, who also has sought to blame forest management practices for California’s fire woes, has declared both the Camp and Woolsey fires to be disaster areas, making federal emergency assistance more readily available.

In northern California, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said Tuesday night that a National Guard contingent of 100 military police trained to seek and identify human remains would join dozens of coroner-led recovery teams, cadaver dogs and forensic anthropologists already sifting through the charred, ash-strewn rubble of what was left in Paradise.

Nearly 230 people have been listed as missing, but on Tuesday night Sheriff Honea said those numbers were highly fluid as some individuals may simply have fallen out of touch during chaotic evacuations.

The fatality count of 48 from the Camp Fire far exceeds the previous record for the greatest loss of life from a single wildfire in California history—29 people killed by the Griffith Park fire in Los Angeles in 1933.


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