Toll rises to 77 in deadliest California wildfire

Christopher Davidson
November 20, 2018

Volunteers in white coveralls, hard hats and masks poked through ash and debris Sunday, searching for the remains of victims of the devastating Northern California wildfire before rains forecast this week complicate their efforts.

An army of Finns posted photographs showing how they spent their weekends, rake in hand, working to prevent forest fires, and the liberal New York Daily News headlined its front page "Make America rake again", in a play on Trump's election slogan.

Mr Trump expressed sadness during his visit on Saturday at the devastation in a California town, as more than 1,200 people listed as missing in the worst-ever wildfire to hit the USA state.

A total of 993 people were still reported missing, said Miranda Bowersox, a spokeswoman for the Butte County Sheriff's Office, on Sunday.

"As much as I wish that we could get through all of this before the rains come, I don't know if that's possible", the sheriff said.

Firefighters in Northern California have mixed thoughts on President Donald Trump's criticism of forest management but say their main focus is fighting the blaze.

Authorities attribute the high death toll from the blaze-dubbed "Camp Fire"-partly to the speed with which flames raced through the town with little warning, driven by strong winds and fueled by drought-desiccated scrub and trees".

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In an interview with Fox, he claimed "nobody's ever seen what's going on over there" in California - despite it being the nation's most populous state, and media extensively covering the fire since it began.

Usually vocal critics of Trump, the two men stood silently by, nodding along with sombre expressions as the president spoke.

The fire also burned many places to the ground, creating a landscape unique to many search-and-rescue personnel, he said. "I want great climate and we're going to have that and we're going to have forests that are very safe".

Though Trump previously threatened to revoke federal funding to California over its allegedly poor forest management - a move firefighters called "ill-informed", "reckless" and "insulting" - Brown noted that Trump had since given California federal funding to fight the fires and "said and pledged very specifically to continue to help us, that he has our back".

They also have no idea how the small population could rake vast swathes of forest.

Northern California's Camp Fire has destroyed almost 10,000 homes and burned 233 square miles. It was 65 per cent contained.

As of Friday, the only missing mountain lion was one dubbed P-74, a young male born a year ago.

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