California wildfire victims were given 'erroneous' information fire was contained before it killed them

‘They had packed their belongings in preparation to evacuate,’ says Butte County sheriff Kory Honea

James Crump
Wednesday 16 September 2020 19:03
Wildfires in California

Two victims of the California wildfires were packed and ready to evacuate the area, but decided to stay at their shared home after reading “erroneous information” about the spread of the fire.

The victims, 68-year-old Philip Ruble and 77-year-old Millicent Catarancuic, were found dead near their destroyed home in Berry Creek, California, last week, after wildfires ravaged areas in the state.

Mr Ruble was found inside a charred Toyota pickup truck by their home, while Ms Catarancuic was discovered in a nearby embankment, according to Butte County sheriff Kory Honea.

An evacuation order was sent out for Berry Creek in the afternoon of Tuesday 8 September and the information was posted on social media sites, the fire information line and was broadcast via ham radio.

Law enforcement officials also travelled through the area with evacuation sirens and went door to door when possible to make sure all residents were aware of the order, Butte County spokeswoman Megan McCann told CNN.

Mr Honea told reporters on Tuesday: “After speaking to family members, it is believed the pair was aware of the fire in the area.”

The sheriff added: “They had packed their belongings in preparation to evacuate but later decided not to evacuate based on erroneous information that the fire was 51 per cent contained.”

It is currently unknown where the couple read the fire containment figure, as that information is not generally released by the authorities.

The California wildfire has so far killed 15 people and injured one firefighter, while 13 more are still missing as the fire has decimated areas of the state for close to a month now.

More than 230,000 acres have been charred in the wildfires in California, as at least 780 structures have been burned to the ground.

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