Guard troops search for dead in aftermath of wildfire
Published 7:55 am Thursday, November 15, 2018
PARADISE, Calif. — With scores of people still missing, National Guard troops searched Wednesday through charred debris for more victims of California’s deadliest wildfire as top federal and state officials toured the ruins of a community completely destroyed by the flames.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke joined Gov. Jerry Brown on a visit to the leveled town of Paradise, telling reporters it was the worst fire devastation he had ever seen.
“Now is not the time to point fingers,” Zinke said. “There are lots of reasons these catastrophic fires are happening.”
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Brown, a frequent critic of President Donald Trump’s policies, said he spoke with Trump, who pledged federal assistance.
“This is so devastating that I don’t really have the words to describe it,” Brown said, saying officials would need to learn how to better prevent fires from becoming so deadly.
About 7,700 homes were destroyed when flames hit Paradise, a former gold-mining camp popular with retirees, on Nov. 8, killing at least 48 people in California’s deadliest wildfire. There were also three fatalities from separate blazes in Southern California.
It will take years to rebuild the town of 27,000, if people decide that’s what should be done, said Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains looks like a wasteland.
“The infrastructure is basically a total rebuild at this point,” Long said. “You’re not going to be able to rebuild Paradise the way it was.”
Temporary schools and hospitals will be brought in, Long said. Officials are also looking to bring in mobile homes for thousands of people left homeless.
Debris removal in Paradise and outlying communities will have to wait until the search for victims finishes, he said.
That grim search continued Wednesday.