Sixth body found in rubble of Northern California wildfires

COBB — Another body has been found in a burned-out home in Northern California, bringing the death toll to six from two of the state’s more destructive wildfires in recent memory, authorities said Wednesday.

The body was found Tuesday night in the rubble of a fire in Lake County, about 100 miles north of San Francisco. The blaze has charred 118 square miles.

Lake County sheriff’s officials said they discovered the remains in the hard-hit Cobb area and believe they belong to Robert Taylor Fletcher, 66, who was last seen Sept. 16. His home was destroyed.

Officials said Robert Litchman, 61, from the Seigler Canyon area of Lake County, was still missing as of Wednesday.

Three other people were found dead in the rubble of that blaze last week. They were Bruce Beven Burns, 65, Leonard Neft, 69, and Barbara McWilliams, 72.

Cadaver dogs located the men in the Hidden Valley and Anderson Springs areas. Neft, a former newspaper reporter, was found dead near his burnt car after what might have been an attempt to escape, his daughter Joselyn Neft said. His wife had asked him to leave, but he said the fire looked far away.

Burns’ body was found in a building on the Lake County grounds of his brother’s recycling business, where Burns also lived.

McWilliams was found dead in her Anderson Springs home.

Meanwhile, two bodies were found inside homes destroyed in a separate wildfire about 170 miles away in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

Mark McCloud, 66, and Owen Goldsmith, 82, died after rejecting orders to evacuate their Calaveras County homes, said Lynnette Round, spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. That fire has charred 110 square miles.

The two fires continue burning, but recent cooler weather and some rain have helped firefighters gain ground. Both fires were more than 80 percent contained Wednesday.

Also Wednesday, authorities said a man’s suicide started a wildfire that destroyed 12 homes and eight small buildings and prompted evacuations near the small town of Jamesburg, 140 miles south of San Francisco.

The Monterey County Sheriff’s Department said firefighters found the suicide victim’s body near the fire’s ignition point.

The sheriff’s department declined to release the cause of death or other details of how the fire started Saturday, saying an investigation continues. The man’s identity wasn’t disclosed.

That fire has charred a little more than a square mile since it started about 30 miles east of the coastal city of Monterey. Firefighters say it is 81 percent contained.

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