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California's deadliest wildfire finally tamed

China Daily | Updated: 2018-11-27 09:02
A couple return to their home in Paradise, California for the first time since the Camp Fire forced them to evacuate. REUTERS

LOS ANGELES - The deadliest and most destructive fire in California's history was finally brought totally under control by firefighters, more than two weeks after it erupted, authorities said on Sunday.

The so-called Camp Fire, which broke out on Nov 8, is so far known to have killed 85 people.

Late on Sunday, the Butte County Sheriff's department increased the number of missing people to 296 from 249 - still considerably lower than the 474 reported missing on Friday.

"#CampFire ... is now 100% contained," Cal Fire, the state fire authority, said in a bulletin on Twitter.

Only 54 of the fatalities have been identified, according to the local sheriff's office in Butte County, a rural area north of the state capital Sacramento.

A total of 62,050 hectares were affected by the fire, with nearly 14,000 homes and hundreds of other structures destroyed.

Heavy downfalls that have soaked the fire zone in the past days helped douse the remaining flames, but also made it more difficult for crews searching for bodies.

The Camp Fire was the second major blaze to hit California in recent weeks, with a fire in Malibu near Los Angeles also killing three people.

The smoke from the Camp Fire was so intense that schools in San Francisco had to close at one point earlier this month, as did the city's famed cable car and Alcatraz Island.

California's governor, Jerry Brown, has warned that the state can expect a growing number of major fires as a result of global warming.

US President Donald Trump, who visited one of the worst-hit towns called Paradise last weekend, caused some consternation by saying that the fires were due in part to forestry mismanagement.

Ahead of the announcement that the fire has been totally tamed, authorities had already started letting residents return to some of the worst hit areas to inspect the damage to their homes.

In a joint bulletin posted on Saturday, the police and fire service said evacuation orders that had been in place for some areas over the last two weeks were being lifted for both residents and nonresidents, while warning that essential services were still "very limited".

"Prior to returning home, residents are encouraged to take steps to ensure they have food, water and fuel for their vehicles," said the statement.

Agence France-Presse

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