PARADISE: US National Guard troops fanned out to scour the ruins of the devastated town of Paradise on Thursday for remains of victims as 130 people remained listed as missing in California’s deadliest wildfire on record, whose death toll has risen to 56.
The “Camp Fire” blaze last Thursday incinerated the Sierra foothills town, once home to 27,000 people. Most of the missing in and around Paradise, which lies about 280 km north of San Francisco, are aged over 65.
Authorities fear that in the crush to flee the fast-approaching flames, some elderly residents may have been left behind.
The surface area of the fire had grown to 138,000 acres by late Wednesday evening, even as diminished winds and rising humidity helped firefighters shore up containment lines around more than a third of the perimeter.
The National Guard contingent, 50 military police officers, has joined dozens of search-and-recovery workers and at least 22 cadaver dogs.
More than 9,000 firefighters and other personnel from many US states are fighting the Camp Fire and the “Woolsey Fire” hundreds of miles to the south.
Paradise’s ghostly expanse of empty lots covered in ash and strewn with twisted wreckage and debris made a strong impression on Governor Jerry Brown, US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and other officials who toured the devastation on Wednesday and were due to visit the scene of the Woolsey Fire on Thursday.
Given the scale of the destruction in Paradise, some residents are weighing whether they can ever return.