As the devastating California wildfires continue to spread across the state, the confirmed number of dead and the sheer amount of destruction also continues to rise. According to CNN, the fires — which were already considered the deadliest in the state’s history — are responsible for the deaths of 36 people. The Los Angeles Times reports at least a dozen of the wildfires’ victims were elderly. “The bulk of them are in their 70s and 80s, so that is the commonality,” Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano told the press. Despite this, however, the even bigger commonality is the fact that many victims received little warning.
The New York Times notes the relative quickness of the flames, both how fast they spread and how quickly they consumed certain areas, contributed to the rising death toll: “Advance warning was measured in minutes or seconds, or never came at all. Hesitation was lethal.” “My dad’s best friend was calling and calling my parents, but they were completely asleep,” the adult daughter of two elderly victims told the paper. “By the time my dad finally picked up and his friend said ‘You’ve got to get out,’ it was probably already too late.”
“Some of (the remains) are merely ashes and bones,” Giordano said on Thursday. “And we may never get truly confirmative identification on ashes. When you’re cremated, you can’t get an ID.” While the heartbreaking and nearly impossible task of identification gets underway, there’s also the overwhelming job of sifting through the destruction. Previous reports of 3,500 homes and businesses lost to the wildfires have since been bumped up to 5,700.
According to Napa County Fire Chief Barry Biermann, most of the recent progress with combating the fires and surveying the damages is due to the fire crews who’ve been working since Sunday — and their much-needed reinforcements. “It’s like pulling teeth to get law enforcement and firefighters to disengage from what they’re doing out there — they’re truly passionate about what they’re doing to help the public,” he told CNN. But the reinforcements are coming in, and that’s why you’re seeing the progress that we’re making.”
Google is using its Maps feature to maintain an up-to-date survey of the affected areas throughout California.