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NorCal’s Camp fire grows to 125K acres overnight

November 14, 2018

LOS ANGELES — The deadliest wildfire in state history continued its destructive march overnight, challenging firefighters battling flames near the Feather River and pushing crews to build defenses before the inferno reaches the next town.

The Camp fire has scorched 125,000 acres since Thursday and claimed at least 42 lives as it ripped thorough mountain towns in Butte County. More than 7,100 structures — mostly homes in Paradise — were turned to rubble as the blaze charred the region.

On Tuesday, crews were working to build up defenses around the town of Cherokee near the Feather River and Stirling City, northeast of Paradise and Magalia, which were both devastated by the fire.

Two of the biggest question marks facing firefighters will be how the fire behaves when it hits swaths of landscape to the fire’s east and north. Officials say the area has no documented history of fire, meaning it’s likely extremely overgrown and dense, which can create explosive fire conditions.

“Be aware, there is a lot of fuel out there ready to burn really hot,” fire behavior analyst Jonathan Pangburn told crews at a morning briefing at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico on Tuesday morning.

The death toll from the fire jumped Monday when officials said they recovered the remains of 13 people as teams continued to search the burned-out rubble of thousands of lost homes. The remains of 10 people were located in Paradise, and three were found in the Concow area. Amid the wreckage, search teams continued to sift through rubble and ash. Residents are holding out hope that their loved ones who went missing when the fire tore through their towns might be found.

Pressing her hand against her head, Paradise resident Teresa Moniz scanned a list of missing persons taped to a board at the Neighborhood Church in Chico. Hundreds of handwritten names were scrawled on yellow-and-white papers. The names of friends and relatives also are listed, along with contact numbers. A few photos of missing persons were pinned to the board.

Her hand shook as she added her husband’s name: “Albert Moniz aka Pete.” When the Camp fire broke out, Moniz, 60, was in nearby Magalia, and her 67-year-old disabled husband was at their home in Paradise, she said.

“He called me and said: “There’s a fire; I have to get out,’” Moniz said, her eyes filling with tears.

Her husband went to a friend’s house and called again from there. That was the last time she heard from him. He doesn’t have a cellphone, she said.

Moniz said she knows their Paradise home on Edgewood Lane burned because she saw a video showing its destruction. Moniz said her husband’s daughter started a Facebook page in the hope of finding him.

Meanwhile, crews battling the Woolsey fire in Los Angeles and Ventura counties are grappling with a second consecutive day of red flag conditions, which signify a powerful mix of heat, dry air and winds that could explode a small fire into a deadly inferno.

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