Third body found in California wildfire debris
Calaveras County Coroner Kevin Raggio on Wednesday confirmed that two bodies had been found in the Butte fire debris on Tuesday.
The body of Mark McCloud, a 66-year-old resident of Mountain Ranch, was found Tuesday outside his home on Baker Riley Road, Raggio said. He “refused to leave the scene, and his home was overcome by the fire.”
Raggio said an autopsy had been performed and that the cause of death was thermal injury. “He was definitely killed by the fire.”
Another person, an adult male, was found with cadaver dogs on Tuesday in the M-24 subdivision of Mountain Ranch, Raggio said. That man, whose name has not been released, also refused to leave, and his residence was destroyed by the fire, Raggio said.
The fatality announcement comes two days after the body of a disabled woman was found in rubble from the Valley fire in Lake County.
On Wednesday, officials were dealing with looting in the Valley fire burn zones.
Law enforcement teams encountered looters Wednesday morning and Tuesday night in evacuated communities, authorities said. Several arrests have been made, according to the Lake County jail log.
Lake County sheriff’s officials said some people in private cars had tried to sneak through blockades by marking their windshields with the agency designations that fire responders are using on their trucks and equipment.
The Lake County jail log showed that a 60-year-old man from Clearlake Oaks, who listed his occupation as an antique remodeler, was apprehended after venturing past manned blockades late Tuesday and charged with impersonating an officer. According to the jail log, he also carried a concealed weapon.
Earlier Tuesday, a 26-year-old Lakeport man was arrested after allegedly attempting to enter the disaster area with what officers believe were burglary tools, as well as drug paraphernalia. A 35-year-old man from Whispering Pines was arrested for allegedly entering the area to try to take archaeological items.
The Valley fire had grown to 70,000 acres and was 30% contained as of Wednesday morning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. It has destroyed 585 homes and hundreds of other structures and continues to threaten 7,650 structures. The death of one woman, whose remains were found in a charred residence on Cobb Mountain earlier this week, has been confirmed.
Lake County Sheriff Brian Martin said at a briefing Wednesday morning that residents are being allowed back into areas north of California 29 that are safe, if they provide verification of their addresses.
But south of that road, the fire remained too hot, and downed power lines made the area too dangerous. There, authorities are escorting residents to homes to check on pets and animals left behind and to collect a few belongings.
“Fetch and retrieve is a good term for it,” Martin said.
At least five deputies have lost their own homes, and two others know the homes of their parents were destroyed by the fire, Martin said.
Authorities are still dealing with people who stayed in their homes during the fire and now want help getting out.
“They realize, ‘I don’t have services, I don’t have power, I don’t have water,’” Martin said.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has a small army working to restore electricity in the area. The company said it has 800 personnel in the field repairing lines. Service to 7,200 customers is out, company spokesman Matt Nauman said.
Now on their fifth day of fighting the fire, responders were optimistic Wednesday, hopeful that the cooler weather could give them the upper hand.
“Today is going to be a good day, ladies and gentlemen,” Cal Fire incident commander Robert Michael told responders at their early morning briefing. “Today is also an important day because the weather is on our side.”
Northern California should see temperatures well below normal, and about a tenth of an inch of rainfall is expected Wednesday in the area of the Valley fire, according to the National Weather Service. Winds may be a problem, though, and if fire crews can’t make headway with the favorable weather, they’ll face a warm-up later in the week.
Michael warned that the window of good weather would be small: “In the next few days after that, it’s going to get hot and dry again, and this thing may start all over.”
St. John reported from Lakeport and Branson-Potts from Los Angeles.
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