Over five days, the cluster of wildfires that’ve broken out in California’s wine country have claimed at least 31 lives – making this the deadliest week for wildfires in the state’s history. And with the remains of many incinerated homes still too hot to enter, authorities say that number is likely to climb – perhaps significantly – as elderly residents of the afflicted communities were blindsided by the fires’ ferocity, and many were unable to flee in time.
The average age of the 10 victims whose names have been released is 75, state officials said. The youngest was 57.
Whole neighborhoods have been reduced to smoldering rubble. Meanwhile, an army of firefighters have had little success trying to suppress the flames; the largest conflagrations continue to burn virtually unimpeded. Local firefighters, many of whom have worked for days on end with little or no sleep despite their own homes having burned to the ground, are finally being relieved by reinforcements from out of state, CNN reported.
Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano described the grim reality of the body recovery efforts, which he said had only just begun.
“We’re moving into a recovery phase,” Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano said. “That is the reality part of it.”
Speaking late Thursday, Giordano said that two more bodies had been recovered as search teams moved into areas where people had been reported missing in the wake of the fires.
“We have found bodies almost completely intact, and we have found bodies that were nothing more than ash and bones,” Giordano said.
California’s iconic wine country – comprising Sonoma and Napa counties – has been particularly hard hit, as have Mendocino, Yuba, Nevada, Butte and Orange counties. As of late Thursday, 21 fires spanned 300 square miles – up from 8 on Tuesday. Most are still less …read more