Missing Tally More Than Doubles in Deadliest Fire in California History

November 16, 2018

By Chloe Aiello

As of Friday afternoon, more than 600 people are still missing and almost 70 are dead as a result of ongoing fires that have ravaged parts of Northern and Southern California over the past week.

The toll of missing individuals from the Camp Fire soared after the Butte County Sheriff Department adjusted the count to reflect those reported missing during the height of the blaze. In a conference with reporters late Thursday recorded by NBC, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said he suspects many on the list may have sought cover from the fire and don't even know they've been reported missing. He also said he expects the list to fluctuate as some are located and others are reported missing.

The list includes many elderly individuals in their 80s and 90s.

The Camp Fire has been deemed the most deadly and destructive fire in California's history. It's scorched 142,000 acres, destroyed more than 12,000 structures ーmany of them homesー and almost completely leveled the town of Paradise. It also accounts for a reported 66 of the 69 fire casualties reported, but those numbers are still shifting.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said it expects to have the Woolsey Fire fully contained by Monday and the Camp Fire contained by Nov. 30.

President Donald Trump is scheduled to travel to California on Saturday "to meet with individuals impacted by the wildfires." the White House said Thursday. The show of support signals a change in tone for the President, who over the weekend blamed the blaze on what he called "gross mismanagement of the forests," and threatened to revoke federal funding of certain departments.

His comments sparked backlash from Californians, fellow politicians, and advocates of climate science..

Meanwhile, the financial toll of the fire was also coming into focus.

Shares of Pacific Gas and Electric Company ($PCG) recovered more than 37 percent on Friday after a report that signaled a possible bailout of the company, which is California's leading utility provider.

Shares of the utility were thrashed this week over concerns its equipment would be found responsible for the igniting the Camp Fire. The utility revealed in a filing on Tuesday that it experienced an outage in Butte County, near the area where the fire is thought to have started ー and right around the same time. In the filing, the utility provider disclosed that "the Utility could be subject to significant liability in excess of insurance coverage" if its equipment is found to be at fault.

The head of a California utility regulator, however, said the company should not be allowed to enter bankruptcy when it may be on the hook for billions in liabilities, Bloomberg reported.

“It’s not good policy to have utilities unable to finance the services and infrastructure the state of California needs,” California Public Utilities Commission's Michael Picker said. “They have to have stability and economic support to get the dollars they need right now.”

Picker later told The San Francisco Chronicle about a possible pathway to bailout which would rely on a relatively new state law to allow PG&E to pass along some costs to customers.