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Officials: About 100 People Still Missing after California Fires

2018-11-14

About 100 people are still missing in the deadliest wildfire in California’s history.

Officials have released the names of the missing people. Many are older people, in their 80s and 90s. The fires, near both ends of the state, have claimed the lives of at least 51 people, with 48 dead in Northern California and three in Southern California.

Friends and relatives seeking information about loved ones posted messages and photos in the Northern California town of Chico.

“I hope you are okay,” read one note. Another had a picture of a missing man: “If seen, please have him call.”

Cal Fire firefighters comb through a house destroyed by the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S., Nov. 13, 2018.
Cal Fire firefighters comb through a house destroyed by the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S., Nov. 13, 2018.

Sol Bechtold is searching for his 75-year-old mother, Joanne Caddy. He said some of the missing people are not on the list released by the government. Caddy’s house burned down along with the rest of Magalia. The area is just north of Paradise, a town of 27,000, that was completely destroyed by the fire last week.

Bechtold said he spoke with the sheriff’s office Wednesday morning. They confirmed they have a missing person’s case on his mother Caddy. But Caddy, who lived alone and did not drive, was not on the list.

Greg Gibson was hoping to find information about his neighbors in Paradise. He wondered if they had tried to escape or had stayed a few minutes too long.

Gibson said, “It happened so fast.”

He spoke from the Neighborhood Church in Chico. The church serves as a shelter for some of the more than 1,000 who escaped from the fire.

Harold Taylor is a 72-year-old Vietnam veteran. Walking with a cane, he said he received a call Thursday morning to leave immediately as the fire was coming up behind his house.

“We didn’t have 10 minutes to get out of there,” he said. “It was already in flames downtown, all the local restaurants and stuff,” he said.

Along the way, he asked his neighbor to get in his car and leave with him, but the neighbor chose not to. Taylor does not know what happened to that person.

Before the Paradise fire, the deadliest single fire on record in California was in 1933 in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park that killed 29 people.

In Southern California, firefighters have made progress against another huge fire in Malibu. That fire has killed two people and destroyed over 400 structures.

I’m Mario Ritter.

The Associated Press reported this story. Hai Do adapted it for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

flame - n. the hot, glowing gas that can be seen when a fire is burning