Camp Fire claims 63 lives, becomes the deadliest fire in California’s history with over 600 still missing

By Amanda Schmidt, AccuWeather staff writer
November 16, 2018, 1:31:08 AM EST

The most deadly and destructive wildfire in California history continues to burn in Northern California in Butte County. The fire has destroyed hundreds of buildings and has placed hundreds of lives at risk.

As the Camp Fire rages on, authorities continue to search tirelessly for over 600 missing people.

Sixty-three fatalities have been confirmed by officials, making it the deadliest wildfire in the state's history. Previously, the deadliest fire was the Griffith Park Fire which claimed the lives of 29 people in October of 1933.

The Camp Fire is also the most destructive individual fire in California's history, with the number of structures destroyed surpassing 10,000, and over 15,000 still threatened. Previously, the most destructive fire was the Tubbs Fire which destroyed 5,636 structures in October 2017.

(AP Photo/John Locher)

People sit by their tents at a makeshift encampment outside a Walmart store for people displaced by the Camp Fire, on Friday, Nov. 16, 2018, in Chico, California.

Sudhin Thanawala/AP

Volunteer members of an El Dorado County search and rescue team search the ruins of a home, looking for human remains, in Paradise, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, following a Northern California wildfire.

John Locher/AP

Dakota Keltner, right, rests on Havyn Cargill-Morris in a truck at a makeshift encampment outside a Walmart store for people displaced by the Camp Fire, Friday, Nov. 16, 2018, in Chico, Calif. The two, from Magalia, Calif., escaped the fire with their families.

(AP Photo/Noah Berger)

A vehicle drives through smoke from a wildfire near Pulga, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018.

(AP Photo/John Locher)

Officials stand over human remains at a burned out home destroyed by the Camp Fire, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018, in Paradise, Calif.

(AP Photo/John Locher)

A bag containing human remains lies on the ground as officials continue to search at a burned out home at the Camp Fire, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018, in Paradise, Calif.

(AP Photo/Noah Berger)

A vintage car rests among debris as the Camp Fire tears through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018.

(Photo/Jason Weinrich)

The sun being obscured by wildfire smoke.


Cars driving through flames as people evacuate from the Camp Fire.

(AP Photo/Noah Berger)

As the Camp Fire burns nearby, a scorched car rests by gas pumps near Pulga, Calif., on Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018.

(AP Photo/Nicole Kowalczyke)

This photo provided by Nicole Kowalczyke shows a piece of a burned page that fell out of the sky in Chico, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, as the Camp Fire burns nearby.

(AP Photo/Noah Berger)

A home burns as the Camp Fire rages through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018.


Smoke from the Camp Fire as seen from North Chico, California.

(AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Flames consume a home as the Camp Fire tears through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. A California fire official says a fast-moving wildfire in Northern California has destroyed structures and injured civilians.

(Twitter Photo/@CAL_FIRE)

(Photo/Berkeley Firefighters)

(Photo/Berkeley Firefighters)

(Twitter Photo/@JasonHalley_CSU)

(Twitter Photo/@CAL_FIRE)

(Twitter Photo/@JasonHalley_CSU)

(Twitter Photo/@Harrisonfresh)

(AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Flames burn inside a van as the Camp Fire tears through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018.

(AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Flames consume a car dealership as the Camp Fire tears through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018.

“This is a serious humanitarian as well as economic disaster for the state of California, possibly rivaling the negative impacts of the great earthquakes there," Dr. Joel N. Myers, founder and president of AccuWeather, said.

"At this point, AccuWeather estimates that the total damage and economic impact of the California wildfires has already exceeded $80 billion, and will likely exceed $150 billion and possibly reach $200 billion by next week based on AccuWeather forecast conditions of strong winds and very little rain combined with very dry grounds and vegetation aggravated by lack of rain and strong parched winds. If these conditions and the resulting damage persist at least partially into December, this could well turn out to be one of the U.S.' costliest weather and climate disasters, exceeding the damage caused by recent major hurricanes such as Katrina, Sandy and Harvey."

Officials said in a late Monday update that they had a successful day in terms of holding the current fire perimeter line and would provide structure protection throughout the night.

The Camp Fire ignited around 6:30 a.m. local time Thursday, Nov. 8, and has burned 141,000 acres and is 40 percent contained. Nearly 5,600 fire personnel are working to fight the fire.

Just hours after the fire erupted, a state of emergency was declared in Butte County in response to the rapidly-growing Camp Fire. On Friday, President Donald Trump approved California's Emergency Declaration, allowing federal assistance to be open to the state due to the wildfires.

On Monday, he said he approved an expedited request for a major disaster declaration for the state.

“This dramatic economic loss will cause substantial damage to California’s economy with repercussions to its annual budget potentially resulting ultimately in increased taxes," Myers said. "Deteriorating economic conditions brought on by the negative economic impact of the fires coming on the heels of last year's losses will stress the state’s budget possibly causing the state’s credit to deteriorate which, if it occurs, will result in lower bond ratings and higher interest rates with the snowball effect to greater deficits and more expenses."

“While there is a chance for some meaningful rainfall next week, it is unlikely that we will see enough precipitation to end the fires across Southern California. There is a somewhat better chance for enough rainfall to diminish the fires in Northern California," Myers said.

Most schools in San Francisco, Sacramento and Oakland announced that they will be closed on Friday due to thick smoke and poor air quality from the ongoing wildfires, according to the AP.

Some fans attending the NFL game between the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers on Monday night wore masks to deal with any air quality issues. Oxygen tanks were also provided on the sidelines for players.

The cause of the fire is still unknown. However, on Friday afternoon, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. said that it experienced a problem with an electric line near the location where the Camp Fire started, according to the AP. It is unclear if this contributed to the start of the wildfire.

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An evacuation order was issued for all of Paradise, home to over 27,000 people, where many had only minutes to flee the rapidly spreading blaze.

“Pretty much the community of Paradise is destroyed, it’s that kind of devastation,” Cal Fire Capt. Scott McLean said via the AP. “The wind that was predicted came and just wiped it out.”

Ten search teams were working in Paradise and in surrounding communities in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Authorities called in a DNA lab and teams of anthropologists to help identify victims, according to the Washington Post.

McLean said Friday morning that the blaze had nearly quadrupled in size on Thursday night.

CA Camp Fire 11-11-18

A tattered flag flies over a burned out home at the Camp Fire, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018, in Paradise, Calif. (AP Photo/John Locher)

As the Camp Fire grew on Thursday night, evacuation orders expanded into the city of Chico, California, where over 93,000 people live.

Several shelters have opened for evacuees, but many are quickly filling up.

Statewide, 150,000 remained displaced as more than 8,000 fire crews battled wildfires that have scorched 400-square miles. Out-of-state crews continue to arrive, according to the Washington Post.

“This is truly a tragedy that all Californians can understand and respond to,” Gov. Jerry Brown told reporters. “It’s a time to pull together and work through these tragedies.”

No traffic is being allowed into the town of Paradise. At least 60 patients were evacuated from the Feather River Hospital. Local schools and universities have been closed due to the threat of the fire.

Multiple road closures were in effect.

Fire personnel will welcome calmer conditions for the rest of the week around the Camp Fire. However, a multi-day Santa Ana wind event will continue to create a dangerous situation in Southern California through midweek.

Camp Fire structures destroyed

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