Search Begins for Bodies in California Fires

California Fires

As fires continue to rage across northern California, the unfortunate search for the victims' bodies has already begun in some areas.

More than twenty fires continue to rage across the state's famous wine country, with 8,000 firefighters—some local, some who are volunteers from as far away as Australia—battling the deadly blazes. Several days into the disaster, the death toll currently stands at 31, with more than 3,500 homes and businesses destroyed.

At this rate, many believe that these will soon become the worst fires in the history of the state. While the firefighters have made some modest gains (estimated at about ten percent containment), the possibility remains that bad weather, specifically winds, could destroy those gains at any moment and send the fires moving in unpredictable directions.

What's more, authorities fully expect for the number of casualties to rise as they begin to investigate the hundreds of reports of people who are missing during this crisis.

“We are not out of this emergency. We are not even close to being out of this emergency,” said Emergency Operations Director Mark Ghilarducci at a news conference on Thursday.

Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano says that they are currently trying to do targeted searches for missing people at their last known addresses. Many of the search parties are bringing along cadaver dogs, while other remains are so badly burned that they could only be identified using special medical equipment.

“We have found bodies almost completely intact, and we have found bodies that were nothing more than ash and bones,” he explained.

“There have been IDs in this case, in a pile of ash and bone, where there was a piece of metal left from somebody’s surgery, like a hip replacement, with an ID number that helped us identify the person."

The first fires began on Sunday in Sonoma and Napa counties, though so far, their exact origin remains unknown. Janet Upton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, says that authorities are currently looking into the possibilities of downed power lines or other equipment failures.

It is estimated that 25,000 people have currently evacuated; in some cases, whole cities are empty in fear of the approaching flames. All throughout the region, ashes are floating down like snowflakes. Altogether flames span about 304 square miles, which is approximately the size of New York City's five boroughs.


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