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  1. ITV Report

California wildfire becomes deadliest in state history as death toll climbs to 42

At least 42 people have died in a wildfire in Northern California, making it the deadliest blaze in state history.

Authorities reported 13 more fatalities as the search for bodies continued.

In a separate fire in the south of the state, two people also died.

Victims were found in burned-out cars, in the smouldering ruins of their homes, or next to their vehicles, apparently overcome by smoke and flames before they could escape.

In some cases, there were only charred fragments of bone, so small that investigators used a wire basket to sift and sort them.

  • Captain Stan Ziegler from the Ventura County Fire Department gave an update on the efforts to combat the fire and shows an area where it has burned.

Hundreds of people were unaccounted for by the sheriff’s reckoning, four days after the fire swept over the town of Paradise and practically wiped it off the map.

As the search for victims continued, friends and relatives of the missing called hospitals, police, shelters and the coroner’s office in the hope of learning what became of their loved ones.

Authorities moved to set up a rapid DNA-analysis system and brought in cadaver dogs, mobile morgues and more search teams in an intensified effort to identify victims.

Paradise is a popular retirement community, and about a quarter of the population is over-65.

A charred street sign in Paradise. Credit: AP
A plane drops water on the fire in a bid to try and battle the blaze. Credit: AP

The Camp Fire which has obliterated Paradise was fanned by winds of 40mph (64km) overnight, making it incredibly difficult for firefighters to try and contain.

The blaze has now grown to 177 square miles and was 25% contained, authorities said.

Scorched cars line the road in Paradise, California Credit: AP Photo/Noah Berger
A search and rescue worker looks for human remains. Credit: AP

The Camp Fire is was part of an outbreak of wildfires on both ends of the state, with the Woolsey Fire hitting southern California.

Together, the two infernos were blamed for 44 deaths, including two in celebrity-studded Malibu in southern California, where firefighters appeared to be gaining ground against a roughly 143-square-mile blaze that destroyed at least 370 structures, with hundreds more feared lost.

Some of the thousands of people forced from their homes by the blaze were allowed to return, and authorities reopened US 101, a major highway through the fire zone in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.