US & Canada

California wildfires: Town of Paradise will need 'total rebuild'

California Governor Jerry Brown, FEMA Administrator Brock Long and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke speak to local police in burned out school Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Senior officials have been touring the fire-ravaged northern Californian town of Paradise

The director of the US emergency agency says a California town ravaged by wildfire will need a "total rebuild" job that will take several years.

Brock Long, administrator of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), said the damage to Paradise was "one of the worst disasters" he had ever seen.

So far 56 people have been found dead in the Camp Fire that hit the town, but 130 more remain missing.

About 9,400 firefighters are currently battling wildfires across the state.

At a news briefing on Thursday, the director of California's fire service said "firefighters are making good progress" to contain the blazes, even as new fires continue to pop up.

"We continue to engage in the fire fight. We continue to keep our eye on the ball," Chief Ken Pimlott said.

He added that over 242,000 acres have burned across the state so far and nearly 11,000 buildings have been destroyed.

On Thursday, President Donald Trump announced that he would be visiting California to survey the damage from the wildfires.

Mr Trump has previously blamed California forestry officials for the fire, saying that it was caused by their "mismanagement".

What is the latest on the Camp Fire?

On Wednesday, rescuers found the remains of eight more victims - all in and around Paradise.

Crews have contained 35% of the Camp Fire in northern California, which has become the deadliest conflagration in state history.

They do not expect to fully contain the blaze - which has razed 145,000 acres (56,600 ha) - until the end of the month.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Cadaver dogs and forensic experts are scouring the town

Butte County officials have released a list of 103 people they believe are still missing - most of whom are elderly.

So far 7,600 residences are known to have been destroyed by the fire, as well as hundreds of commercial properties.

Governor Brown, who was touring the area on Wednesday, described it as looking like a "war zone".

"Paradise had done a lot of pre-planning for just this kind of an emergency but the fire of course was unprecedented, overwhelming and so a lot of people got caught," he said.

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Media captionCalifornia wildfires survivor's tearful account of escape with son

Military troops are assisting forensics teams and cadaver dogs as they continue to search for human remains.

Officials have warned the search operation could take weeks.

What about the other fires?

A number of fires continue to burn and officials at Thursday's press conference warned the risk of more is far from over.

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who has been touring the damage called it "unsustainable" for such fires to become a yearly occurrence.

"We're a great nation, this not a Republican Democrat issue, this is an American and we should address it as such."

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Media captionWith wildfires occurring across the globe, here are some of the techniques used to stop them

Governor Jerry Brown said the solution will involve addressing climate change.

"We have to get on the side of nature, not just fight it," said the Democratic governor.

Meanwhile, officials said "good progress" was being made on the Woolsey Fire that has damaged beach resorts, including the rich-and-famous haunt of Malibu.

Officials confirmed on Wednesday morning that a third victim from that fire had been discovered - meaning 59 people are now known to have died across the state.

Image copyright @GerardButler
Image caption Actor Gerard Butler and singer Miley Cyrus are among the celebrities known to have suffered damage

The Woolsey Fire is still burning across more than 98,000 acres but is 57% contained, the state fire service tweeted.

Some areas affected are now considered safe, and the Los Angeles County police say they will now allow some people back into the city of Calabasas.

The smaller Hill Fire, is 94% contained in Ventura County, north of Los Angeles. Police have lifted evacuation orders for residents of Lake Sherwood and Hidden Valley.

A new wind-driven fire began menacing San Bernardino County homes on Tuesday - but that has been being largely contained by local officials.

Why are the fires burning?

Officials have not yet confirmed what started any of the blazes.

Several people have already filed a lawsuit against Pacific Gas & Electric, causing their stock price to plunge by over 31% which amounts to market value of about $16bn.

On Monday, the California Public Utilities Commissions (CPUC) announced investigations into PG&E and another electric company, Southern California Edison (SCE).

SCE had reported issues with transmission lines near the start of the Hill and Woolsey Fires in southern California.

Historically, California's "wildfire season" started in summer and ran into early autumn but experts have warned that the risk is now year-round.

Low humidity, warm Santa Ana winds, and dry ground after a rain-free month have produced a prime fire-spreading environment.

Speaking on Wednesday, Governor Brown said a range of factors were behind worsening fires in the state.

"It's not one thing, its people, it's how people live, its where they live, and it's the changing climate, the drought, the diminishing moisture and the truth is … we're going to have more difficulties," he said.


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