Town of Paradise will need ‘total rebuild’ after California wildfire

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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 9,000 firefighters are currently battling wildfires across the state. At a news briefing on Wednesday by officials, the director of California’s fire service said “progress is being made” to contain the blazes. “I want to just reiterate we continue to have a lot of work to do we will continue to be here, we will get this done until the job is over,” Ken Pimlott said. In a Tweet on Wednesday, President Donald Trump said he has been briefed on the situation by Mr Long and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who are both currently on the ground in California. He also offered his support to California Governor Jerry Brown. 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 135,000 acres (54,600 ha) until the end of the month. Butte County officials have released a list of 103 people they believe are still missing – most of which 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. 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. A number of fires continue to burn and officials at Wednesday’s press conference warned the risk of more is far from over.

Mr Pimlott, the director of CalFire, said there remained a “critical” risk of blazes for the next week because of how dry vegetation is. “Right now we are focused on maintaining the pace and the battle rhythm of this firefight across the state,” he said. He 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. The Woolsey Fire is still burning across more than 97,000 acres but is 47% 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. A new wind-driven fire began menacing San Bernardino County homes on Tuesday but that has been being largely contained by local officials. Officials have not yet confirmed what started any of the blazes.

Several people have already filed a lawsuit against Pacific Gas & Electric. 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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