The death toll in the latest California wildfire has increased to 48, making it the most lethal and destructive in California’s history.
The number of dead reached the record high after remains of six more victims were found on Tuesday.
The latest fatality count was announced by Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea after forensic teams with cadaver dogs spent the day combing through a ghostly landscape strewn with ash and charred debris in what was left of the Sierra foothills hamlet of Paradise, about 175 miles (280 km) north of San Francisco.
Honea said 100 National Guard troops were being sent in at his request to assist the search for additional human remains left by the so-called Camp Fire.
The intensified effort to locate victims came on the sixth day of a blaze that has incinerated more than 8,800 homes and other buildings, including most of Paradise, a town once home to 27,000 people that was largely erased hours after the fire began on Thursday.
More than 50,000 area residents remained under evacuation orders.
The killer blaze had blackened 130,000 acres (52,600 hectares) of drought-parched scrub by Tuesday but crews had carved containment lines around a third of the fire’s expanding perimeter, helped by diminished winds and high humidity.
The news was likewise more upbeat on the southern end of California’s wildfire front, where a blaze called the Woolsey Fire has killed two people, destroyed more than 400 structures and displaced some 200,000 people in the mountains and foothills near the Malibu coast west of Los Angeles.
That blaze has scorched 96,000 acres (39,000 hectares) of chaparral-covered rolling hills and canyons spanning Ventura and Los Angeles counties, an area roughly the size of Denver.
Beyond the loss of homes, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said the fire had destroyed “deep infrastructure” – power lines, water lines, sewers, roads, and lights – “and other things that make a city a city.”
The latest tally of 48 dead far surpasses the previous record for the greatest loss of life from a single wildfire in California history when 29 people killed by the Griffith Park fire in Los Angeles in 1933.
Honea said, in some cases, victims were burned beyond recognition, or even beyond the use of fingerprint identification.
“We’re finding remains in various states,” he told reporters. “People have been badly burned. Some of them, I assume, have been consumed.”
Honea had previously said 228 people were listed as missing. However, he said on Tuesday night those numbers were highly fluid and that his office planned to publish a new list of missing persons soon and would ask the public to help account for them.
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