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California fires claim more lives as North Complex death toll rises

By Luke Money, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES - The confirmed death toll from California's unprecedented firestorm has risen to 25 as crews work to hem in some two dozen major blazes still burning statewide.

Another fatality was confirmed Monday in the area of the North Complex fire near Oroville - boosting that fire's death toll to 15, according to the Butte County Sheriff's Office. In recorded state history, only four blazes have been deadlier.

Authorities have released the names of seven fire victims: John Butler, 79; Sandra Butler, 75; Jorge Hernandez-Juarez, 26; Philip Rubel, 68; Khawar Bhatti, 58; Millicent Catarancuic, 77; and Josiah Williams, 16.

All were residents of Berry Creek, a mountain town northeast of Oroville that was devastated by the fire.

As of Tuesday morning, officials said the North Complex was 39% contained. At more than 269,000 acres, it is now the eighth-largest fire in state history, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire.

The North Complex is one of several historically large conflagrations that have ignited over the past month. So far this year, fires have chewed through more than 3.2 million acres statewide - an area larger than the state of Connecticut.


The firestorm has destroyed more than 4,200 structures and forced over 60,000 people from their homes, according to Cal Fire.

Although officials have made significant progress in some areas - and are nearing full containment on the SCU and LNU Lightning Complex fires, which are the third- and fourth-largest in state history, respectively - the one-two punch of dangerous winds and historic heat earlier this month, as well as California's rugged and at times unforgiving terrain, have combined to stymie their attempts elsewhere.

Firefighters lost ground Tuesday to the Bobcat fire, which is burning in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Portions of Pasadena, Altadena, Monrovia, Bradbury and Duarte have been under an evacuation notice for more than a week, and some neighborhoods in Arcadia and Sierra Madre were ordered to evacuate Sunday when winds shifted.


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