The death toll from the devastating Camp fire in Butte County, Calif., rose to 86 after an 80-year-old man died of his burn injuries, authorities said Tuesday.
Larry Smith of Paradise was burned Nov. 8 while attempting to put out flames that engulfed his car, the Butte County Sheriff’s Office said. He was flown to the UC Davis Firefighters Burn Institute Regional Burn Center, where he died Nov. 25.
Authorities also released the name of one other person who died in the blaze: Shirlee Teays, 90, of Paradise.
Authorities in Butte County revised the Camp fire death toll to 85 after investigators determined that, in three cases, human remains collected in multiple bags belonged to a single individual.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said investigators had identified 43 victims.
For weeks, hundreds of searchers scoured 18,000 structures destroyed by the blaze looking for human remains, going over some areas more than once. Honea advised residents who head back to their neighborhoods in coming days to call the sheriff’s office if they find bones or bone fragments.
Over the last few weeks, some Paradise evacuees have made a Best Western hotel home. They didn’t know each other before the fire, though they lived in the same small town for years and frequented the same haunts.
They have formed a little community at the Corning hotel around the waffle maker during breakfast, passing one another in the elevator and lounging in the lobby,
Around the table, they trade stories of dodging embers and feelings of guilt. Together, they try to make sense of the tragedy that unites them.
As a series of rainstorms begins to move across the state, officials in areas recently scarred by wildfires are on high alert for potential mudslides and flash flooding.
The National Weather Service issued a warning of possible flash flooding in three counties in Northern California in advance of a storm expected to arrive late Wednesday.
Forecasters predict the second in a series of three storm systems this week could drop more than an inch of rain on the Camp fire burn area in Butte County; the Carr, Delta and Hirz fires burn areas in Shasta County; and the Mendocino Complex fire scar in Lake County.
U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke returned to Paradise, Calif., on Monday, saying the cost of California’s worst fires would probably be in the billions and that care would have to be taken in rebuilding the city.
“When we rebuild, having a frank discussion whether it’s appropriate to rebuild every place is an important part of the equation,” he told the Associated Press in an interview.
Authorities are coming to terms with the possibility that the search for victims of the Camp fire might never be complete and that some human remains won’t ever be recovered.
“Is it possible that there could be a circumstance where someone was completely consumed by fire and therefore we wouldn’t have something that we could collect? I would say it is within the realm of possibility, unfortunately,” Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said Monday.
“There’s nothing easy about this. This is just an unprecedented situation,” he added.