Many people still missing in devastating wildfire
By MARTHA MENDOZA and GILLIAN FLACCUS, Associated Press
CHICO, Calif. (AP) — A message board at a shelter for the many people who fled California’s deadliest wildfire is filled with photos of the missing, as well as pleas for any information about relatives and friends.
“I hope you are okay,” reads one hand written note on the board filled with white and yellow sheets of notebook paper. Another had a picture of a missing man: “If seen, please have him call.”
Authorities on Tuesday reported six more fatalities from the Northern California blaze, bringing the total number of dead so far to 48. They haven’t disclosed the total number still missing, but earlier in the week that figure was more than 200.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said a list of the missing would be released soon and that 100 National Guard troops would help teams already looking for remains.
“We want to be able to cover as much ground as quickly as we possibly can,” he said. “This is a very difficult task.”
As authorities increased efforts, people waited for any word on those still not found.
Greg Gibson was one of the people searching the message board Tuesday, hoping to find information about his neighbors. They’ve been reported missing, but he doesn’t know if they tried to escape or hesitated a few minutes longer than he did before fleeing Paradise, the town of 27,000 which was consumed last Thursday. About 7,700 homes were destroyed.
“It happened so fast. It would have been such an easy decision to stay, but it was the wrong choice,” Gibson said from the Neighborhood Church in Chico, California.
More than 1,000 people were at shelters set up for evacuees.
Inside the church, evacuee Harold Taylor chatted with newfound friends.
Taylor, a 72-year-old Vietnam veteran who walks with a cane, said he received a call Thu