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The Latest: Trump official to visit wildfire zones

November 13, 2018

PARADISE, Calif. (AP) — The Latest on wildfires in California (all times local):

10:30 a.m.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says he’s cancelled a planned trip to Asia at the direction of the White House and will instead travel to California to support efforts to contain the deadly wildfires scorching large areas of the state.

Zinke said Tuesday he will visit the Northern California fire that wiped out the town of Paradise and killed 42 people. He will travel later to Southern California, where another fire is burning that has killed two people.

Zinke says he plans to meet with California Gov. Jerry Brown to offer the administration’s support.

The move comes after President Donald Trump —Zinke’s boss— on Saturday blamed poor “forest management” for making California’s fires so big, deadly and costly.

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10:20 a.m.

About 200 people who fled their homes following the most destructive wildfire in California history have packed into a Northern California church where counselors, chaplains and nursing students from Chico State University were available to help.

The Neighborhood Church in Chico was one of more than a half-dozen facilities helping house people displaced by the blaze, which has killed at least 42 people.

James Woods is a director at the church and said Tuesday it will stay open “as long as it’s needed.”

Volunteers are cooking three meals a day, and there is a large bulletin board with information about missing people.

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10:15 a.m.

Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth lost their home in the deadly wildfire blazing California but are donating $500,000 to The Malibu Foundation through Cyrus’ charity, The Happy Hippie Foundation.

A representative for Cyrus says Tuesday in statement to The Associated Press that the couple’s “community and state are very special to them and they want to give back to the place that has created so many beautiful memories for themselves and others.”

Cyrus and Hemsworth’s home was in Malibu and burned by the big Southern California wildfire that killed two people.

The statement says they “are very grateful to be safe along with their animals.”

The statement says the donation “will be used for those in financial need, emergency relief assistance, community rebuilding, wildfire prevention and climate change resilience.”

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9:30 a.m.

California regulators say initial testing has found no elevated levels of radiation or hazardous compounds after Southern California’s huge wildfire burned near a former nuclear test site in hills to the northwest of Los Angeles.

The state Department of Toxic Substance Control says its staff went to the site known as the Santa Susana Field Laboratory on Saturday and found that facilities that previously handled radioactive and hazardous materials were not affected by the fire.

The organization Physicians for Social Responsibility said in statement Monday that it was likely that smoke and ash from the fire spread radiological and chemical contamination that was in soil and vegetation.

But the state agency says its measurements on the site and in the surrounding community found no radiation levels above background levels and no elevated levels of hazardous compounds other than those normally present after a wildfire.

The site was used for decades for testing rocket engines and nuclear energy research. One of its nuclear reactors had a partial meltdown in 1959. Battles over decontamination efforts have gone on for years, with neighbors blaming illnesses on the site.

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7:30 a.m.

Fire crews battling a Northern California blaze that leveled a town and killed at least 42 people made gains overnight and prevented the blaze from advancing toward a town of 19,000 people.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said Tuesday that firefighters held containment lines to slow the wildfire’s advance toward Oroville.

Officials say more than 5,000 firefighters are battling the blaze that destroyed the town of Paradise and has charred 195 square miles (505 square kilometers) since it started Thursday. The blaze is 30 percent contained.

Milder winds of up to 25 mph (40 kph) are expected in the area Tuesday. But fire behavior specialist at Cal Fire Jonathan Pangburn says the there’s plenty of bone dry vegetation ready to burn “really fast and hot.”

The wildfire has destroyed more than 6,400 homes and displaced 52,000 people.

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7 a.m.

Firefighters are working to extend containment lines around the vast area burned by a Southern California wildfire.

The work to eliminate the threat from the so-called Woolsey Fire on Tuesday was happening as winds continue to cause high fire threats from metropolitan Los Angeles to San Diego County.

Authorities have allowed more people to return home but several entire communities, including Malibu, remain under mandatory evacuation orders.

The latest estimates show the fire spread over more than 146 square miles (378 square kilometers). The fire area is expected to be fully contained by Thursday.

Authorities have said two people were killed in the fire and at least 435 buildings were destroyed.

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12 a.m.

More than a dozen coroner search and recovery teams looked for human remains from a Northern California wildfire that killed at least 42 people, making it the deadliest in state history. Anxious relatives are visiting shelters and calling police hoping to find loved ones alive.

Lisa Jordan drove 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) from Yakima, Washington, to search for her uncle, Nick Clark, and his wife, Anne Clark, of Paradise, California. Anne Clark suffers from multiple sclerosis and is unable to walk. No one knows if they were able to evacuate, or even if their house still exists, she said.

Lisa Jordan says she’s staying hopeful and adds: “Until the final word comes, you keep fighting against it.”

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea updated the confirmed fatality number Monday night.

The figure that is almost certain to spike following the blaze that last week destroyed Paradise, a town of 27,000 about 180 miles (290 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco.

Authorities were bringing in two mobile morgue units and requesting 150 search and rescue personnel. Officials were unsure of the exact number of missing.

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