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California Wildfires: At least 38 dead and hundreds missing

Smoke billows from a neighborhood that was destroyed by a fast-moving wildfire on Oct. 9, 2017, in Santa Rosa, Calif. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

At least 38 people are dead as wildfires continue to ravage Northern California, burning over 215,000 acres. Some of the victims are only able to be identified by ID numbers found on medical implants.

“We have found bodies that were completely intact and bodies that were nothing more than ash and bone,” Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano said on Thursday.

Sonoma County, which includes the city of Santa Rosa, has been hit hard by the flames. In a press conference on Saturday, Sergeant Spencer Crum said 20 people have died in the county. He also said 223 people are still unaccounted for.

According to Cal Fire, six people have died in the neighboring county of Napa. Eight deaths have been confirmed in Mendocino County, north of Santa Rosa. In Yuba County, north of Sacramento, four have died due to the wildfires.

74 people are still missing in Napa County, according to county spokeswoman Molly Rattigan.

California Governor Jerry Brown called the fires “one of the biggest” compared to other fires in the state’s history.

Officials struggle to contain the fires

Firefighters have been able to achieve 44 percent containment around the 35,000-acre Tubbs fire. The 50,000-acre Atlas fire is now 45 percent contained. The Nuns fire, which combined with three other fires in the last few days, has burned 46,000 acres and is only 10 percent contained.

Throughout northern California, over 100,000 people have been evacuated from their homes. Thousands remain in shelters, with some not knowing if they have a home to return to.

“It may be several days or more than a week before people who’ve been displaced can start the process of healing and rebuilding,” Cal Fire spokesperson Richard Cardova said. “That cannot happen until we remove all the hazards out there: downed power lines, toppled trees, smoldering hot spots, and power outages.”

Critical threat

The National Weather Service increased the fire weather threat to “critical” for coastal areas north of San Francisco and the northwestern Sacramento Valley for Saturday. According to the NWS, the critical threat means high winds and low humidity, which could hurt progress for firefighters.

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