A record 31 Californians have lost their lives this week to the current wave of wildfires scorching the state, according to the Associated Press.
California has experienced deadly fires before, with a 1991 fire killing 25 people and a 1933 fire killing 29. This week’s spate of fires, however, has been deadlier than any other fire or group of fires in the state’s history.
Thousands of homes and businesses have been reduced to ash. Hundreds of people are still missing after fires swept through and leveled whole neighborhoods without warning, driven by hurricane-force winds.
“We all have suffered a trauma here, and we’re going to be a long time in recovering from this incident,” Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey said, according to the Washington Post.
The death toll is certain to rise, authorities say, as crews continue to dig through the rubble of burned down structures. Many are using cadaver dogs to help with the search.
“We have recovered people where their bodies are intact,” Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano told WaPo. “And we have recovered people where there’s just ash and bone.”
The National Weather Service predicts the winds that made this week’s fires so destructive will stay light throughout Friday, giving firefighters a chance to contain the blazes that have together burned more than 300 square miles.
North winds are expected to pick up over the weekend, however, presenting a renewed threat to Californians.
“There’s a degree of risk for everyone right now until the fires are contained,” Faith Moody, who works as a general manager of a music hall in one of California’s scorched communities, told WaPo. “The truth is that all it takes is for the winds to pick up heavily. Things can change so fast.”
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