California fires: Death toll in Paradise rises to 71; more than 1,000 unaccounted for

The death toll from California’s worst fire rose to 71 on Friday, with more than 1,000 people still unaccounted for.

The number of missing rose by nearly 400 since Thursday night. But officials said that there might be duplications on the list and that some of those listed might be alive but simply have not checked in with the people who reported them missing.

The remains of eight additional people were found Friday.

The staggering destruction of the Camp fire continued to worsen, with officials reporting more than 12,000 structures destroyed and 142,000 acres burned. The fire was 50 percent contained, but officials warned of returning winds over the weekend. There is also a possibility of rain by Wednesday of next week.

It was another challenging day across Butte County. More than 40,000 people remained evacuated. Many have no homes to go back to. The fire has caused terrible air quality in Butte County as well as many other areas of Northern California.

An ashy haze has blanketed many regions, leading to an “unhealthy” air quality index. That means most people who breathe the air there can experience health problems, regardless of age or fitness level, said Jenny Tan, a spokesperson for the Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District.

At the same time, some residents were trying to find some sense of normalcy.

The morning fog hadn’t yet burned away in downtown Chico by 9 a.m. Friday when Paradise resident Kathleen Reed got in line outside the post office along with her fellow displaced residents.

Only a few dozen locals were there that early, but everyone said the line was going to get longer as the day stretched on.

“I drove by on my lunch hour yesterday, thought I’d have time and saw hundreds in line and was like, ‘Nuh-uh,’” said Reed, 56, who was there to collect a package for her mother and a week’s worth of mail that had accumulated since the Camp fire destroyed her home Nov. 8.

“I don’t know how they’re going to have P.O. boxes for everyone,” she said.

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