Dangerous wildfires are raging in California. The Camp Fire has killed 63 people, and the Woolsey Fire took three more.
The flames from California's deadliest wildfire are beginning to retreat into forested, unpopulated areas of the state, but the death toll is still rising.
Seven new victims of the Camp Fire were found Thursday, bringing the total number of deaths from the fire in northern California to 63. More than 631 people are still missing, according to the Butte County sheriff's office.
The fire continues to rage across Butte County, which is less than 100 miles north of Sacramento, though it is now roughly one-third contained. So far, it has scorched 218 square miles of land, an area nearly the size of Chicago.
The other dangerous wildfire raging in California, the Woolsey Fire, has burned more than 150 square miles in the hills around Los Angeles. Residents of Malibu and other LA suburbs whose houses were in the path of the flames are beginning to return home to charred shells as firefighters strengthen their hold on the flames.
Two people were killed in the Woolsey fire last Friday, and a third body was found in a burned home in Agoura Hills on Wednesday, bringing the statewide death toll from both fires to 66.
Already this year, 7,578 fires have burned across California, fueled by hot, dry conditions and aggressive winds. The causes of both the Woolsey and the Camp Fires are still under investigation, but sparking power lines may have played a role in Camp.
The Camp Fire moved at a deadly pace when it broke out on Thursday morning, sending the 27,000-resident town of Paradise into flames within hours. That quick progression — the flames spread at a pace of 80 football fields per minute — made successful evacuations near impossible. At least six people burned to death in their cars as they tried to escape, the Butte County Sheriff's Department said.
"The fire was so close I could feel it in my car through rolled up windows," Rita Miller, who fled Paradise with her disabled mother told the Associated Press.
Other residents ran from the fire on foot, the Sacramento Bee reported.
Coroner search teams are going house to house (or rather, from plot to plot) in the burned-down town of Paradise to search for victims. More than 450 people have been assigned to search for human remains in the debris, the Associated Press reported. Abandoned cars in driveways can be a tell-tale sign that residents might not have escaped in time. Sifting through the ashes, the teams sometimes only recover a few remains of a fire victim to put in a body bag.
"The long bag looks almost empty as it's carefully carried out of the ruins and placed in a black hearse," Gillian Flaccus with the Associated Press reported from Paradise on Monday night.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said the county is working with anthropologists from California State University at Chico to help identify bone fragments among ash in the area.
Fortunately, winds are settling, humidity is rising, and there's a potential for rain in the forecast next week. Those factors may give firefighters a boost, but Cal Fire doesn't expect the Camp Fire to be fully extinguished until the end of November.
You can view fire damage from the Camp Fire on Cal Fire's Structure Status Map, and see evacuations on the official Camp Fire Evacuation Map. You can also register yourself as safe or search for loved ones who are missing using the Red Cross Safe and Well list online.
California Acting Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in Butte County on Thursday and sent a letter to President Donald Trump and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) asking for federal assistance.
President Trump approved some federal assistance for the California fires on Friday, but then threatened via Twitter over the weekend that there may be "no more Fed payments!" unless California forests are better managed. (The federal government oversees 40% of California land.)
Trump later said he approved an "expedited request" for a Major Disaster Declaration, which allows people whose homes or places of work were hit by the Woolsey or Camp Fire to apply for federal assistance.
"Wanted to respond quickly in order to alleviate some of the incredible suffering going on," Trump said in a tweet on Monday. "I am with you all the way."
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said in a release that "aassistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster."
Smoke from the Camp Fire has blanketed wide swaths of Northern California in a gray haze. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says the air throughout much of the San Francisco Bay Area is "unhealthy" to breathe.
Federal air monitors have suggested that older adults, children, teens, and people with heart and lung conditions should limit their time outside because of the high number of dangerously small pollutants in the air. Some people have donned masks to protect their lungs.
The Woolsey Fire, fueled by fierce Santa Ana winds, has destroyed an estimated 500-plus structures, mostly homes. Over the last couple of days, firefighters have strengthened their hold on the flames — the fire is nearly 60% contained and growing at a slower pace than it did over the weekend.
Red-flag warnings that were in effect for southern California through Wednesday evening have expired, giving firefighters a boost as the winds die down.
The Woolsey Fire has claimed three victims. Two burned bodies were found in a "long, narrow" Malibu driveway near Mulholland Highway, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said. A third victim was discovered near the wreckage of a home in Agoura Hills.
At its peak, the fire forced over 275,000 people from their homes. Carol Napoli, who lives at the Vallecito mobile home park for seniors in Newbury Park, said the flames approached the park so fast that an elderly friend in her 90s didn't have time to grab her oxygen tank before they bolted in a car.
"We drove through flames to get out," Napoli told the Associated Press. "My girlfriend was driving. She said, 'I don't know if I can do this ...' Her son said, 'Mom you have to, you have to drive through the flames.'"
The fire has burned at least 98,000 acres of land and threatened mobile homes and celebrity mansions alike. Celebrities like Gerard Butler, Miley Cyrus, and Neil Young all lost their houses.
The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, the country's largest urban national park, was also hit: 83% of that land has burned, according to the Los Angeles Times. Flames and smoke sent bobcats and mountain lions in the area scampering. The blaze also destroyed the storied filming location of Western Town, where the shows "Westworld" and "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" were shot.
Cal Fire expects the Woolsey Fire to be fully extinguished by the end of this coming weekend.
Residents are starting to stream back into sections of Malibu, Thousand Oaks, and northern Topanga. You can view current fire perimeters, evacuation updates, as well as shelter and donation information on the Ventura County Emergency Information site, the Ventura County Recovers site, and the LA County Woolsey Fire site.
Another smaller fire in southern California, the Hill Fire, charred over 4,500 acres but was nearly out (97% contained) by Thursday. The Woolsey and Hill Fires both threatened the town of Thousand Oaks, where residents were already reeling from a deadly mass shooting in which 12 people were murdered. Three-quarters of Thousand Oaks residents were under mandatory evacuation orders over the weekend, according to the Associated Press.
Resident Cynthia Ball told the AP it was "like 'welcome to hell.'"
"If you were affected by the Woolsey or Hill fires, the Thousand Oaks mass shooting, or both, you can call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text 'TalkWithUs' to 66746 for emotional support and resources," the LA County website reads.
The flames in southern California have been fueled by hot, dry conditions and spread by Santa Ana winds, which tend to blow in from the desert in the fall months.
Firefighters are still racing to keep flames from charring people's homes, but as the LA Fire Department's Eric Scott pointed out on Twitter, some houses are better protected than others, since green vegetation can help keep flames back.
Wildfire season in California used to run from late summer through the fall. But as the planet heats up, higher-than-average temperatures and drought conditions are becoming more common. Meanwhile, developers continue to build homes in places that are naturally prone to wildland fires.
"Whether it is to allow a rock star to build on a ridgeline in Malibu or a manufactured-home community that nestles into the foothills, the decision is the same and the consequences are the same," Char Miller, director of environmental analysis at Pomona College, told the LA Times.
Michelle Mark, Bryan Logan, and David Choi contributed reporting.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.