Tragedy raises questions on evacuation notifications, causes and potential utility liability; locally concerns rise over power outages and building in areas where a wildfire could cause traffic gridlock and mass fatalities
By Miriam Raftery
November 16, 2018 (San Diego) – The Camp Fire’s grim toll has risen to 60 confirmed deaths while the list of missing has skyrocketed to 630 as authorities review 911 calls and other reports. The Paradise Post has published a list of those missing in the state’s deadliest wildfire, which thus far has burned 142,000 acres. The Post has dropped bundles of its newspapers off at evacuation shelters, since delivery is impossible in a town where 90% of the buildings are now gone.
The blaze has destroyed 9,600 homes and 230 commercial buildings in Butte County, leveling the town of Paradise and also causing severe damage in several nearby communities north of Sacramento. The fire is now 45% contained.
But even those who survived without losing homes or businesses may suffer long term adverse health impacts due to air polluted by chemicals that have burned as the fire scorched through urban areas. Air quality is rated hazardous across the Sacramento Valley and into San Francisco, where trolley car service has been temporarily halted due to the air pollution.
Meanwhile questions remain as to why so many were trapped and unable to escape. Most of those who perished were elderly and some who did get out report that they received no emergency warnings or evacuation notices. Authorities awaiting confirmation from fire officials reportedly got notices out too late for some residents closest to the monster wind-driven fire.