California fire: Death toll rises in Camp fire as survivors look for their way forward
Silence hangs over Paradise,Calif., after the explosive Camp fire burned through Butte County and claimed 23 lives. Residents have not been allowed back.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
President Donald Trump meets California Gov. Jerry Brown and Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom at Beale Air Force Base on Saturday.(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)
US President Donald Trump views damage from wildfires with Paradise Mayor Jody Jones in Paradise, Calif.(SAUL LOEB / AFP/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump walks with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., left and FEMA Administrator Brock Long, right, as he visits a neighborhood impacted by the wildfires in Paradise, Calif.(Evan Vucci / AP)
President Donald Trump tours the Woolsey Fire ravaged neighborhood on Dume Drive in Malibu on Saturday.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles TImes)
President Donald Trump, second from left, tours the Woolsey Fire ravaged neighborhood on Dume Drive in Malibu.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles TImes)
From left, Johnny Hardin, 15, Madeline Hardin, 13, Donita Hardin and Erik Hardin, 15 months old, get ready to sleep in their car after getting displaced by the Camp fire, at the Walmart parking lot in Chico, Calif.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Alexandria Wilson, 21, kisses her dog Harley, after they both escaped the Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Search and rescue teams inspect the grounds of a house burned by the Camp Fire along Boquest Boulevard in Oroville, Calif.(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
Volunteers hand out supplies to fire evacuees near a Walmart in Chico, Calif.(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
People go through donated clothes at a Walmart in Chico, Calif.(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
A sign warns looters at the site of burned-down properties in Paradise, Calif.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
A search and rescue team combs through the debris for possible human remains Friday at Paradise Gardens, in Paradise, Calif.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Alexandria Wilson, 21, consoles her boyfriend, Jacob Golden, 25, as they recount their harrowing escape from the Camp Fire at a relative’s house in Applegate, Calif.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
A vanished neighborhood in Paradise.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
A forensic team investigates the site of a Paradise home where remains were found.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Michael John Ramirez hugs his wife, Charlie Ramirez, after they found her keepsake bracelet while sifting through the remains of their home in Paradise.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Religious figurines sit atop a burned vehicle in Paradise.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Authorities recover the remains of a fire victim from an overturned car alongside Pearson Road in Paradise.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
David Neeley hugs his ex-wife, Jeanne Neely, and their daughter, Faith Neeley, 10, in a parking lot in Oroville, where they are staying amid the Camp fire.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Megan Butler, 26, and her daughter Aurora, 2, are homeless after their house burned down in Concow in the Camp fire.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Yolo County Animal Services Officer Stephanie Amato holds a chicken she helped rescue in Paradise.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Smoke fills the sky as the Camp fire continues to burn along the North Fork of the Feather River. It has already burned more than 200,000 square miles.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
A sign in Paradise offers a warning for would-be looters.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
A man rests at a shelter at the Church of the Nazarene in Oroville, Calif.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Outside of Pulga, Calif., on the North Fork of the Feather River, the Camp fire continues to burn.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Outside of Pulga, Calif., on the North Fork of the Feather River, where the Camp fire may have started, helicopters do airdrops while ground crews try to keep the fire from spreading.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Firefighter Brian Carter of Weed, Calif., keeps an eye on the flames along the North Fork of the Feather River.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Many people don’t want to stay in shelters because they can’t take their dogs inside. This dog waits for his human companion in a parking lot in Oroville.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Residents of Paradise, Calif., try to get through a roadblock to check on their home but are turned away. People haven’t been allowed to return to the town.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
The Camp fire burns along a ridgetop near Big Bend, Calif., on Saturday.(Noah Berger / AP)
Yuba County sheriff’s officials carry a body away from a burned residence in Paradise.(Josh Edelson / AFP/Getty Images)
A crew from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection walks through the rubble of a home while putting out hot spots in Paradise, Calif.(Mason Trinca / For The Times)
Flames and embers, pushed by strong dry winds, set the town of Paradise, Calif., ablaze. Thousands of buildings were destroyed.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Brad Weldon, 63, waits for help along Skyway in Paradise, Calif. Weldon was among the residents who stayed and battled the wildfire.(Mason Trinca / For The Times)
Fire crews put out hot spots in Paradise, Calif.(Mason Trinca / For The Times)
Firefighters walk through the rubble of a home in Paradise, Calif.(Mason Trinca / For The Times)
As the death toll from the Camp fire rose to 71 on Friday and the number of missing jumped to more than 1,000, an army of searchers scoured the rubble in the ongoing effort to locate more victims.
Eight more bodies were found Friday, and the number of people unaccounted for jumped from 631 to 1,011 as authorities continued to comb through 911 calls, emails and other reports of missing people.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said, however, that the list of the missing is dynamic and may include people who were counted twice, whose names were misspelled or who may not know they were reported missing.
The Camp fire, already the state’s worst fire on record, has burned 146,000 acres and destroyed 12,263 structures. Officials said it could take weeks to complete the search for victims and identify them. Thousands of residents are without homes and living in shelters and tent cities.
The relentless rise in the number of dead and missing comes as President Trump plans to visit both Northern and Southern California on Saturday to tour the burn areas.
Although the president and Gov. Jerry Brown have clashed on numerous policies — and Trump was roundly criticized last week for erroneously blaming the fires on poor forest management and threatening to cut off funding to California — the two have pledged to work together after the devastating wildfires.
“Now is the time to pull together for the people of California,” Brown said on Twitter.
As the fire’s massive toll continued to come into focus Friday, many Paradise residents struggled to complete day-to-day tasks. The question of how to rebuild their lives in Paradise — if they decided to do so at all — was never far from their thoughts.
A line of evacuees snaked around a vacant Sears department store that had been transformed into a disaster recovery center. Hundreds of people filtered in and out throughout the day.
The Nohrnbergs’ mobile home is gone, and Stew lost all of his important documents, including his birth certificate.
They want to put another mobile home on the plot they were renting but are unsure whether their landlord will keep the land. They’re not even sure when they’ll be able to go back to sift through the ashes to look for any belongings that may have survived.
“Each day it’s something a little bit different,” Pat Nohrnberg said. “It’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.”
The line outside the post office in nearby downtown Chico was already a few dozen deep when Paradise resident Kathleen Reed joined the crowd about 9 a.m. Friday.
Reed, 56, was there to collect a package for her mother and a week’s worth of mail that had accumulated since the Camp fire destroyed her home Nov. 8.
While some are thinking of rebuilding, Reed is not. She lived in Paradise in the early 1980s then moved away, but she returned to the tightknit community in 2009.
“I love Paradise,” she said, but that may not be enough to incentive to stay.
“I don’t ever want to put my kids in the position again where they have to run away from a wildfire,” Reed said. “It’s just not safe to build in the forest anymore. It’s the new normal.”
Tim Bolin, the executive pastor of Paradise Alliance Church, was in line at the post office to take care of his church’s payroll. Sixteen of his 21 employees lost their homes and are “scattered all over, from 100 miles north to 100 miles south,” he said. Another employee’s home was looted.
“There’s checks that have come in. There’s some bills that have to get paid. I hope people are patient,” he said.
The church and Bolin’s home survived, but all of his children’s homes were destroyed. They’re going to set up on his property in trailers and hook up to his septic system while they figure out what’s next, he said.
“Paradise is gone. When I drove through it, it’s gone. But the sense is we’re going to rebuild.”
Others weren’t so sure.
Linda Howard, 70, had been waiting at the disaster recovery center for five hours. She saw people give up and leave. But she would not.
Howard and her daughter, who has special needs, are staying in the area with her brother, but only until they move into a small travel trailer with their parrot.
After about 20 calls, she found an RV space at a casino, and that’s where they will live until it’s safe to go back to Paradise.
“It’s another chapter,” Howard said.
She and her daughter had just moved into a house, but it was burned to the ground. Still, Howard has a place to live when she returns to Paradise: She buys and sells properties, and a second home she was selling in the town didn’t burn. She and her daughter will live there once they are allowed back.
“No one knows how long that’s going to be,” she said.
But she doesn’t plan to stay in Paradise. The two are thinking about finding a ranch.
“It’s time for a change at 70 years old,” she said.
Santa Cruz, Serna and Smith reported from Paradise and Chico, and Panzar from Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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