“It is by far the most deadly single fire in California history and it’s going to get worse, unfortunately,” Thom Porter, chief of strategic planning for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said of the Camp Fire which continues to burn through Northern California.
Firefighters are doing all they can to contain a trio of tremendously destructive fires burning across the state leading to the deaths of at least 66 people. Schools have closed, communities have been ruined, and the air quality continues to worsen as people are inhaling fumes from the ravaging flames.
ABC News describes the Camp Fire in Northern California as the “deadliest and most destructive” of the group as it has killed at least 63 people and, as of Thursday night, there are at least 631 people missing as the result of the fire.
The death toll includes only areas where search crews have been able to comb through. As the fire passes and more areas are opened up for these crews, Porter said, the toll is expected to climb. At least 11,862 buildings have been absolutely destroyed as a result of the fires.
ABC News reports California Governor Jerry Brown described the fallout from the fires as a “war zone”:
Gov. Jerry Brown toured the devastation caused by the Camp Fire on Wednesday with Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. The government leaders visited firefighters still battling the blaze, which burned 138,000 acres and obliterated the town of Paradise, destroying nearly every home in the community of 30,000 people.
“This is one of the worst disasters I’ve ever seen in my career, hands down,” Long said at a news conference Wednesday in Northern California.
Brown said the destruction “looks like a war zone.” He said he spoke earlier Wednesday to President Donald Trump, “who pledged the full resources of the federal government” to help in the recovery effort.
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In a tweet, Governor-elect Gavin Newsom said: “Lives have been lost. Entire towns have been burned to the ground. Cars abandoned on the side of the road. People are being forced to flee their homes. This is not a time for partisanship. This is a time for coordinating relief and response and lifting those in need up.”
United States Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency, saying: “We are working closely with state health authorities and monitoring the needs of healthcare facilities to provide whatever they may need to save lives and protect health. This declaration will help ensure that Americans who are threatened by these dangerous wildfires and who rely on Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program have continuous access to the care they need.”
As ABC News also reports, President Trump is planning a visit to California to meet with victims and state officials.
“We mourn the lives of those lost and we pray for the victims. And there are more victims than anybody would ever even think possible,” Trump said at a Diwali ceremony on Tuesday. “I want to thank the firefighters and FEMA and first responders for their incredible courage in the face of very grave danger.”
“We will do everything in our power to support and protect our fellow citizens in harm’s way,” he added. “That’s a very tough situation.”