71 dead, hundreds missing in Camp Fire
BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. (KTVU) - Across Butte County - and beyond - evacuees wait for news of their charred communities and watch the death toll grow.
Eight more victims were found on Thursday, bringing the total to 71 known killed by the Camp Fire.
Seven of the newly discovered remains were found in Paradise, all were inside structures. One of the new remains was found in Magalia, also inside a structure.
Speaking at a daily 6 p.m. briefing, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea, said 58 of the 71 killed have been tentatively identified.
Honea said the number on the unaccounted for list has grown to 1,011. But he stressed that due to the list being comprised of multiple data sources and factoring in misspellings and duplicates that the list would fluctuate both up and down over the next few days.
On Wednesday Honea said most of the people on the list were over 60 years old, the youngest in their 30s. The list only stood at 631 a day earlier.
Butte County now has almost 500 extra personnel - soldiers and search and rescue- added to their existing recovery teams.
Watch: School officials provide Camp Fire updates from Chico
A total of 200 names have been cleared from the missing list, as they were eventually found safe.
The sheriff says a call center is up and running, and anyone who wants to can submit a DNA sample for a possible match with unidentified remains.
"My sincere hope in time is that the missing list will get shorter and shorter and shorter until we've been able to account for everyone," said Honea, "but we're moving as fast as we can and we'll take as long as it takes, it's an important thing to get right."
In Paradise, a young couple - who wrangled a ride inside the checkpoint- stood at the ruins of their house.
They said it had been their home for a year, but they declined to say more, silent in their shock.
The streets into the woodsy neighborhoods are strewn with charred cars, abandoned as people got out and ran for safety in jammed traffic.
More than 100 burned vehicles have been towed from the middle of roadways.
"I've watched a couple of drone videos and it still feels like I'm watching a movie, said 25 year old evacuee Kami Machado, who lived with her husband and toddler daughter in De Sabla, a community north of Magalia.
They fled the fire with it in their rear view mirror and spotting all around, but Machado's real fear was for her parents in Stirling City, who had no car to drive.
"I told my parents, 'if you need to steal a car, to get out and be alive, just please steal a car, get out and save your lives,'" said Machado tearfully, "and for 24 hours I didn't know and I feared the worst."
Machado's parents escaped and the family reunited at an emergency shelter in Chico.
They are among 200 people staying in the gymnasium at Pleasant Valley Baptist Church.
The evacuees watch the daily fire briefings on a big-screen t.v. and are well-aware of the rising death toll. For Machado, tears come easily.
"My daughter is the only thing that keeps me from crying all day, she truly is, she keeps me looking for the bright spots in this complete devastation."
Wednesday evening's prayer service at Pleasant Valley offered inspiring words from the pulpit.
"There's grieving families, hurting families," sermonized Pastor Tim Ruhl, " and it means they survived the greatest catastrophe ever to hit in California, God has a purpose in their life, great things are yet to come."
Moments before the service, Pastor Ruhl was helping serve hamburgers for dinner to evacuees.
"Well we do a lot of praying, we really do, our folks are great at that," Pastor Ruhl told KTVU.
Partnering with the Salvation Army, the church is providing three meals a day, and keeping evacuees safe, warm and well-supplied with an array of donations.
"These folks have been displaced at a tragic time, and there's a lot of emotions," Ruhl told KTVU, "but anyone can be resilient if they want to. When a hard time comes, you find out how much resilience you have."