The dead have been found in burned-out cars, in the smoldering ruins of their homes and next to their vehicles, apparently overcome by smoke and flames before they could jump in behind the wheel and escape. In some cases, there were only charred fragments of bone, so small that coroner’s investigators used a wire basket to sift and sort them, officials said Monday.
At least 29 people were confirmed dead in the wildfire that turned the Northern California town of Paradise and outlying areas into hell on earth, equaling the deadliest blaze in state history. Meanwhile, the search for bodies continues.
Nearly 230 people were unaccounted for, by the sheriff’s reckoning, four days after the fire swept over the town of 27,000 and practically wiped it off the map with flames so fierce they melted metal off cars. The dead were so badly burned that authorities brought in a mobile DNA lab and consulted forensic anthropologists for help in identifying them.
The blaze is part of an outbreak of wildfires on both ends of the state. Together, they were blamed for 31 deaths, including two in the celebrity-studded town of Malibu in Southern California, where firefighters appeared to be gaining ground against the roughly 143 square-mile blaze that destroyed at least 370 structures. At last check, some of the thousands of people forced from their homes by the blaze were allowed to return. Read the latest on the California fires here.
Photos are below.
The Associated Press/GMG