Camp Fire: Death toll rises to 23 in NorCal firestorm

PARADISE, Calif. -- Nearly two dozen people have been killed by the Camp Fire raging in Northern California, which officials say has destroyed more buildings than any other blaze in state history.

The death toll rose to 23 Saturday evening after officials recovered 14 more bodies throughout the day, Butte County Sheriff and Coroner Kory Honea told reporters.

Honea said 10 of the victims were recovered from the fire-ravaged town of Paradise. He said seven people were found in homes, and three were outside. Of the remaining four, two were in cars and two were in houses in other areas.

Saturday brought a break in the fierce winds that have whipped up flames across California, but officials know the gusts will be back Sunday and most evacuation orders remain in place.

The blaze has covered 109,000 acres and was 25-percent contained Sunday morning.

The Camp Fire is one of three major wildfires roaring though California, destroying thousands of structures and prompting thousands of residents to flee, sometimes through jam-packed, flame-lined streets that forced evacuees to chose whether to try to drive to safety or to get out and run. A quarter of a million people have been forced from their homes statewide.

President Donald Trump has declared an emergency in the state of California and ordered federal assistance to local resources, but also took to Twitter to blame "gross mismanagement" of the state's forest system for the devastating fires.

'There's really not much left'

The Camp Fire left the mayor of Paradise, population 26,000, in shock.

"There's really not much left. There are very few homes still standing and we've been in multiple different neighborhoods this afternoon," Mayor Jody Jones said. She estimated only 10 to 20% of homes are left.

Four people were found dead in vehicles that were overcome by flames and one body was discovered near the vehicles, the Butte County Sheriff's Office said. The other victims were found near or inside homes that burned.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined. Pacific Gas & Electric Company on Friday told state regulators that shortly before the fire started, one of its nearby high-voltage power lines had malfunctioned, the Los Angeles Times reported. 

Fanned by high winds and fueled by low humidity and dry vegetation, California's fires have spread rapidly Thursday and overnight into Friday. The threat continued Friday, with millions of Californians under "red flag" warnings portending windy arid and warm conditions that pose extreme fire risks.

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