Camp Fire death toll rises as hundreds spending Thanksgiving in Walmart parking lot
Northern California could see heavy rain over the next few days, which could help crews battling the devastating Camp Fire. However, it could also bring mudslides and complicate recovery efforts as hundreds of evacuees spend Thanksgiving in a Walmart parking lot.
At a press conference Wednesday night, the Butte County Sheriff’s Office said two more people died in the fire, bringing the total to 83.
Officials also said the amount of missing people on their list has decreased to more than 560. Officials need to make direct contact with a missing person before they can be removed from the list.
The Camp Fire decimated the town of Paradise, population 27,000, and surrounding communities. Officials expected people to be in shelters through the Christmas holiday, CBS News correspondent Meg Oliver reports.
The wildfire has destroyed more than 14,000 homes. “This is certainly one of the worst fires in California history, and it’s the most destruction I’ve ever seen in my career,” Cal Fire Operations Chief Josh Bischoff said.
The Woolsey Fire in Los Angeles County has been 100 percent contained Wednesday night, according to Cal Fire
California wildfire map
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California wildfires fast facts
- Location: Butte County
- 153,336 acres burned
- 85 percent contained
- 83 fatalities confirmed
- 560 unaccounted for
- 18,886 structures destroyed (14,243 residences, 514 commercial and 4,129 other buildings)
- Location: Los Angeles County, Ventura County
- 96,949 acres burned
- 100 percent contained
- 3 fatalities confirmed
- 1,643 structures destroyed, 364 damaged
Hundreds spending Thanksgiving in Walmart parking lot
In Northern California, one organization helping wildfire victims is serving Thanksgiving dinner for thousands of displaced people. Survivors living in a tent city could be hit by six to eight inches of rain expected over the next few days.
CBS News correspondent Carter Evans reports hundreds are spending Thanksgiving in a makeshift camp outside of the local Walmart. The store is asking them to leave citing health and safety concerns. Walmart says it’s working with local officials to increase capacity at approved shelters.
Massive Southern California wildfire contained
Authorities have finally surrounded a Southern California wildfire that destroyed some 1,600 homes and other buildings and left three people dead. Fire officials announced that the Woolsey Fire is 100 percent contained.
The wind-whipped blaze erupted on Nov. 8 and spread destruction from Thousand Oaks to Malibu, west of Los Angeles.
The winds have eased but residents face another threat. Forecasters say a rainstorm is coming by early Thursday that could bring the risk of mudflows and rockslides from denuded hills and mountains.
Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers donating $1M wildfire victims
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers announced Wednesday he’s donating $1 million to California wildfire victims. Wearing a “Butte Strong” sweatshirt to support Butte County, where the Camp Fire destroyed more than 15,000 structures, Rodgers appeared in a Twitter video. He explained the wildfires hit close to home.
Dozens of FEMA trailers ready for evacuees
About 80 travel trailers are at the site of what used to be McClellan Air Force Base in Northern California as officials figure out where to deploy them. Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman Frank Mansell said there’s no timeline for when the trailers will be placed for use, but it will likely take weeks.
Mansell said FEMA would ideally place trailers at the site of people’s destroyed homes and the agency was also looking for a larger site such as a fairground. It takes time to assess whether the sites have appropriate electricity, sewer or septic and other infrastructure to support the trailers.
Mansell said FEMA was also working to put people in hotels or find them other sustainable lodging. He said in most disasters only about 10 percent of victims use FEMA-run shelters.
He said the agency can get as many mobile units as needed.
Schwarzenegger visits firefighters, criticizes Trump
Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made a surprise visit to firefighters battling the Camp Fire, helping serve them breakfast while providing encouragement. “I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate all the work that you do,” he told firefighters during a brief speech.
The 71-year-old actor also slammed President Trump for blaming the wildfire on poor forest management. He told firefighters, “you are tough to not only fight the fires, but you are tough to listen to all this crap.”
Schwarzenegger said Wednesday he was in Budapest, Hungary, when he heard the fire had leveled the town of Paradise.
Woman searching for family friend gets good news
A woman refused to give up hope that a lost family friend made it out of Paradise alive. Diana Sauer visited seven different shelters before learning that 70-year-old Russell Anderson survived the Camp Fire, CBS News correspondent Meg Oliver reports.
It was a difficult challenge. Sauer said Anderson lived a hermit’s life; he had no phone, and she has just a couple photos that are decades-old.
On Tuesday, Sauer told Oliver some very good news. “I went to one of the evacuation centers, and I found his name and his truck on a registration card,” Sauer said. “Just to know that he got out safely, it means everything.”
A shelter worker didn’t know where Anderson had gone, and Sauer had to get leave to get back to her kids three hours away. She is hoping he will call her.
Anderson remains on the unaccounted-for list because officials said they need direct human contact before people can be removed.
Camp Fire evacuees remain at makeshift shelter
Dozens of evacuees who lost their homes in the Camp Fire in Northern California remain at a makeshift camp next to a Walmart in the city of Chico, The Associated Press reports. Dozens of their tents could be seen in a photo posted Tuesday by a reporter with the newspaper Sacramento Bee.
The AP said evacuees were told to leave the sprawling parking lot before rain arrives in the area Wednesday, but some stayed because shelters wouldn’t accept residents with their pets.
A note posted at the makeshift shelter says a shuttle will be available Tuesday afternoon to transport people and their pets to the Gridley Fairgrounds Shelter, AP reports.
Wildfires adversely affecting many cities’ air quality
As of Monday, more than 20 California cities were listed as having an air quality index of “unhealthy.” Residents have been advised to stay inside as much as possible and avoid exercising outdoors.
Short-term, breathing in the smoke-filled air can lead to respiratory discomfort, and inhaling the tiny particulates in the air affects more than just the lungs.
“Once it gets past the air-blood barrier in the lungs it can go to almost any organ in the body because it travels through the blood stream,” professor Ed Avol, acting director of the Environmental Health Division in the University of Southern California Department of Preventive Medicine, told CBSN.
For people with pre-existing respiratory conditions such as asthma, the smoky air can exacerbate their symptoms. Avol also noted that there can be a lasting impact on unborn babies and growing children from prolonged exposure.
More people join lawsuit against power company
Four hundred homeowners and people who lost loved ones are now part of the suit that claims the utility was negligent. “We’re blaming PG&E for failing to maintain its high-tension wires and putting profits over safety,” attorney Mike Danko said.
“We’re blaming PG&E for not turning off the power when they promised they would and when they told all of the residents that they were going to turn off the power if necessary,” Danko said. PG&E said the forecast conditions at the time didn’t meet its criteria for a public safety shutoff of power.
Those criteria include low humidity levels of about 20 percent or below and sustained winds stronger than about 25 mph. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Woman trying to find dad learns he died in fire
Telly had not heard from him since the fire struck. “He’s been through war and so many things, and there’s a possibility he could have made it,” she told CBS News correspondent Mireya Villarreal last week.
Telly said she doesn’t think her father made it very far from home.
Bus driver saved 22 kids from Camp Fire
As the Camp Fire raged in the town of Paradise, a school bus driver picked up 22 students from an elementary school and drove them away from the fast-moving blaze, CBS News correspondent DeMarco Morgan reports. “I just knew that things were going to continue to escalate,” Kevin McKay told Morgan.
McKay told teachers Abbie Davis and Mary Ludwig to comfort and distract the students. “I held back from crying the entire time,” Davis said. “We were so focused on those kids.”
But as smoke turned the sky to night, it began to fill the bus. Some of the children said they felt tired and nauseous.
Quick thinking led McKay to pull off his shirt. The women tore it into pieces, doused them with water and showed the kids how it could help them breathe.
The teachers admitted they feared for their lives. “We were both trying to keep each other from crying,” Ludwig said, “and we just kind of held hands, and we just said a prayer.”
McKay drove for five hours with traffic often at a standstill and smoke obscuring his view. But he delivered the children to safety some 30 miles away.