San Francisco native first to be identified among 29 dead in Camp Fire

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The first victim of the Camp Fire has been confirmed by family members as Ernie Foss Jr., 63, formerly of San Francisco.

He is among the 29 reported dead so far from the Camp Fire, now on record for being the most destructive fire in California history.  “We’re devastated,” said his daughter, Angela Loo, who spoke to KTVU on Sunday night from Oregon.  

As of Tuesday, the fire had consumed 113,000 acres and was 25 percent contained, Cal Fire said. Full containment isn't expected until Nov. 30.

Foss moved to Paradise, Calif. eight years ago because the high cost of living pushed him out of the Bay Area.

Loo said her father was a musician – and raised her family near Haight Street in San Francisco. He also taught music lessons right out of their home; he turned their living room into a studio.

Instead of a living room couch, the family sat on an amplifier that her dad rigged up and which ran the length of the wall.

 “I love that he shared his gift of music with me and so many others during his lifetime,” she said. “He would want to be remembered for being a San Franciscan through and through." 

Foss died along with his dog, Bernice. They were found outside their home on Edgewood Lane, where several other victims of the fire have been found. Foss had advanced lymphedema and couldn't walk. He had also been on oxygen. Bernice was often seen keeping Foss company in his bed.

As of Monday morning, more than 200 people are still reported missing.

Among those is Foss's stepson and caretaker, Andrew Burt. Loo doesn’t know how her father got outside but said it’s possible Burt dragged him there before the fire engulfed their small street.

Loo has a lot of questions about what happened the morning of the fire and why so many people, including her father, did not have enough time to evacuate. She spoke to a neighbor, who told her she pounded on Foss’s door to warn him about the approaching flames, but there were only minutes to escape. 

Loo says she could not get in touch with her father – power and phone lines were down. She says there is no way he would have known about an evacuation order.

“He needed to request a medical evacuation and transport but had no way of seeing a warning or requesting a medical evaluation,” said Loo. “How can you issue an alert, ask people to call 911, but then limit their ability to see the alert and call 911?”

Foss leaves behind two living children, and several grandchildren. 

The Butte County Sheriff's Office opened a missing persons call center to help handle the cases and determine when DNA would be needed to help identify a fire victim. Three numbers to call: call 530-538-6570, 530-538-7544 and 530-538-7671. 

This story was reported from Oakland, Calif.