California searches for 1,000 missing in its deadliest fire

Honea said it was improper to speculate on the fate of those on the list, noting that as of Friday, 329 individuals previously reported missing had turned up alive.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for any of us to sit and speculate about what the future holds.”

The names of the missing were being compiled from information received from a special hotline, along with email reports and a review of emergency-911 calls that came in on the first night of the fire, Honea said.

Some listed have likely survived but not yet notified family or authorities, either because they lack phone service or were unaware anyone was looking for them, authorities said. Others may not have been immediately listed because of delays in reporting them.

HISTORIC PROPORTIONS

The disaster already ranks among the deadliest wildfires in the United States since the turn of the last century. Eighty-seven people perished in the Big Burn firestorm that swept the Northern Rockies in August of 1910. Minnesota’s Cloquet Fire in October of 1918 killed 450 people.

Authorities attribute the Camp Fire’s high death toll partly to the speed with which flames raced through the town with little advance warning, driven by howling winds and fueled by drought-desiccated scrub and trees.

Weather conditions have since turned more to firefighters’ favor, though strong, gusty winds and lower humidity were expected to return late Saturday through early Sunday, authorities said.

Outbreak of the Camp Fire coincided with a series of smaller blazes in Southern California, most notably the Woolsey Fire, which is linked to three fatalities and has destroyed at least 500 structures near the Malibu coast west of Los Angeles. It was 78 percent contained on Friday night.

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