Fire death toll hits 63; sheriff says hundreds still missing

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Experts look ways to curb deaths as fires get more severe The Associated Press 15 Nov 2018

The number of people missing in one of California's deadliest wildfires soared to more than 600 on Thursday as the remains of seven additional victims were found by rescuers.

The revised list of 630 people whose whereabouts and fate remained unknown is more than double the 297 listed earlier in the day by the Butte County Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff Kory Honea asked relatives of missing people to submit DNA samples to speed up the identifying of the dead.

He said the first figure was a partial count, and after authorities went back through all 911 calls and other reports of missing persons from the past week they came up with the new number.

The Camp Fire in Butte County has now destroyed 8,756 homes, 1,310 outbuildings and 260 commercial buildings.

Body recovery teams are conducting a painstaking search of burned-out homes for human remains in the town and closely examining the many charred cars littering the roads.

President Donald Trump will travel to California on Saturday to meet with victims of the deadly wildfires that have scorched the state.

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At least three other people have died in southern California in another blaze dubbed the Woolsey Fire, which engulfed parts of Malibu, destroying the homes of several celebrities.

Cal Fire said the Camp Fire had grown to 140,000 acres (57,000 hectares), but was 40% contained.

Betsy Totten, a Chico city spokeswoman, said it's unclear what will be done if people don't leave, but officials don't plan to kick them out.

At a shelter set in a church in nearby Oroville, a bulletin board was plastered with dozens of photos of missing people, along with messages and phone numbers. Evacuees milling in the parking lot faced morning temperatures that dropped to just above freezing and many wore breathing masks for protection from lingering smoke.

"It's cold and scary", said Lilly Batres, 13, one of the few children there, who fled with her family from the forested town of Magalia and did not know whether her home survived. Two electric utilities have said they experienced equipment problems close to the origins of the blazes around the time they were reported.

"I called him and said, 'Honey, I'm not going to make it".

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