44 dead in California fires as the Camp Fire becomes the deadliest in state history

Updated 5:35 AM EST, Tue November 13, 2018
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BIG BEND, CA - NOVEMBER 10:  The Camp Fire burns in the hills on November 10, 2018 near Big Bend, California. Fueled by high winds and low humidity the Camp Fire ripped through the town of Paradise charring 105,000 acres, killed 23 people and has destroyed over 6,700 homes and businesses. The fire is currently at 20 percent containment.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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(CNN) —  

An additional 13 sets of human remains were discovered Monday in Northern California, bringing the death toll from the Camp Fire to 42, making it the deadliest wildfire in the state’s history, the sheriff of Butte County said.

The increased death toll comes as first responders battle blazes on both ends of the state, and brings the statewide death toll to 44.

Fierce winds continue to threaten lives and homes in Southern California’s Woolsey Fire, which has killed two people so far. The strongest Santa Ana winds in the south may bring gusts near hurricane force on Tuesday, CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said.

Dangerous gusts fuel one California wildfire as another inferno leaves 42 people dead

Meanwhile, firefighters made progress Monday in containing the Camp Fire, which razed the town of Paradise, where most of the dead have been found. Harrowing stories of escapes and close calls are trickling out of the region.

Resident Nichole Jolly said she thought her life was over as flames surrounded her car, filling it with smoke. Then, she called her husband, who urged her to run, she said.

“If you’re going to die, die fighting,” she said, tearfully recalling his words.

Outside the vehicle, ash and hot embers stung her eyes and obscured her vision, she said. She felt around until she reached a fire engine that was hot to the touch. Firefighters pulled her inside, but they, too, were trapped, she said – until a bulldozer came through and cleared a path to safety.

01:41 - Source: CNN
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In some areas of the state, rescue efforts have turned into cleanup and recovery as residents return to what’s left of their gutted homes in neighborhoods littered with charred remains of cars, trees and buildings. President Trump on Monday approved a request for a Major Disaster Declaration that will provide the state with federal resources.

A Malibu resident who has lived through many wildfires said she has never seen one touch so many parts of the city at once.

“Every community neighborhood has been devastated,” the woman told CNN affiliate KCAL/KCBS.

Latest developments by the numbers

• Camp Fire: More than 52,000 have been evacuated and 1,385 are in shelters due to the Camp Fire. It has scorched more than 117,000 acres of Northern California, and destroyed more than 7,000 structures, including 6,453 single-family residences.

As of Monday night, it was about 30% contained.

• Woolsey Fire: In Southern California, 57,000 structures are threatened by the Woolsey Fire. It has burned more than 93,000 acres, killed two people and destroyed at least 435 structures. As of Monday, it was about 30% contained.

• The Hill Fire covered 4,531 acres and was 85% contained by Monday night.

Causes of fires still being investigated

The death toll is rising as California state regulators investigate two utility companies that reported incidents close in time and location to the start of the Camp and Woolsey fires.

Preliminary incident reports submitted last week to the Safety and Enforcement Division of the California Public Utilities Commission provide a glimpse of conditions near the origins of the deadly blazes. Both utilities say they are cooperating with state investigators.

Almost 15 minutes before the Camp Fire began near Pulga, PG&E’s said it experienced a transmission line outage about 1 mile northeast of the town.

In Southern California, where the Woolsey Fire began Thursday afternoon in unincorporated Ventura County, SoCal Edison reported that a circuit relayed out of the Chatsworth Substation about two minutes before the blaze broke out. The incident location in the report appears to be the same as CalFire’s location for the fire’s origin. But it’s not clear how close they actually are to each other.

SoCal Edison’s report says, “at this point we have no indication from fire agency personnel that SCE utility facilities may have been involved in the start of the fire.”

A CPUC spokesperson said the agency will incorporate the incident reports into its staff investigations to assess the compliance of electric facilities with applicable rules and regulations in areas affected by the fires.