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California wildfires: Death toll climbs to 51 as strong winds bring new blazes near Los Angeles

Blaze incinerates more than 8,800 homes and other buildings

California wildfires: Cars come within metres of blaze on Los Angeles freeway

The remains of six more victims of California’s most lethal and destructive wildfire in history have been found, bringing the death toll to 48 in the so-called Camp Fire in northern California and 51 total, statewide.

Forensic teams with cadaver dogs spent the day combing through ash and charred debris in what was let of the town of Paradise, around 175 miles (280km) north of San Francisco, near the state capital of Sacramento. Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said 100 National Guard troops were being sent in at his request to assist in the search for additional human remains left by the Camp Fire.

The names of 80 people, many of them elderly, have been released in an effort to locate them amid the blaze damage.

The intensified effort to locate victims comes on the sixth day of a blaze that has incinerated more than 8,800 homes and other buildings, including most of Paradise, a town once home to 27,000 people that was largely erased hours after the fire began last Thursday. More than 50,000 local residents remained under evacuation orders.

In southern California, the Woolsey Fire has killed three people, destroyed more than 400 structures and displaced some 200,000 people in the mountains and foothills near the Malibu coast west of Los Angeles.

Darkened skies could be seen for days as the fire raged on, with winds picking up the smoke and sending it as far as Wisconsin nearly 2,000 miles away.

Night vision military drone shows Camp Fire tearing through California

The Woolsey Fire has displaced several celebrities as well including Gerard Butler, Neil Young, and Lady Gaga, who was seen delivering pizzas, coffee, and gift cards to a nearby evacuation centre in Los Angeles.

That fire has consumed more than 97,000 acres through Los Angeles and Ventura counties and leaving 57,000 residents still in danger as firefighting authorities said only half of the blaze has been contained.

Donald Trump was briefed on the situation by Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) director Brock Long. Mr Trump said he had a phone call with California governor Jerry Brown “to let him know that we are with him, and the people of California, all the way!”

The president had tweeted over the weekend the fires were due to "poor" "forest management" in the state but did not elaborate on what that actually meant. He also threatened to stop federal government payments to California, presumably funds earmarked for forest management.

However, the current spate of wildfires is not in forests.
The Camp and Woolsey fires actually began in what the New York Times called the "wildland-urban interface: places where communities are close to undeveloped areas, making it easier for fire to move from forests or grasslands into neighbourhoods."
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According to a 2015 report by the US Department of Agriculture, there were 44 million homes in those areas. That number is certainly higher in 2018 as urban areas expand in California.
Regarding his threat to withdraw federal funds for forest management in California - approximately 60 per cent of the forest land in the state is actually federally held and managed.
Of the 33 million acres, 40 per cent are owned and managed by individuals, Native American tribes, and timber companies. Only 3 per cent is owned by the state.
After devastating fires last year, California had allocated more than $250 million to lower the risk of more wildfires but drought, possibly due to climate change, has exacerbated conditions. 
Meanwhile, several homeowners filed a lawsuit against utility company Pacific Gas & Electric for causing the fire.
The suit alleged the company did not properly inspect its high voltage power lines, a spark from which is thought to have ignited dry brush and grassland nearby.
The company has lost approximately 45 per cent of its stock value as the fires continue to rage.

To see how the day unfolded follow our live blog below

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The death toll from the most lethal and destructive wildfire in California's history has risen to 48.

Authorities reported six more fatalities from the blaze in northern California, which has incinerated more than 8,800 homes and other buildings, including most of Paradise, a town once home to 27,000 people.

They have yet to disclose the total number still missing, but earlier in the week that figure was more than 200. 

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Another wildfire roared to life in southern California's on Tuesday in the area of Fontana and Rialto, prompting residents to evacuate as the blaze was whipped up by Santa Ana winds.

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The killer blaze in northern California had blackened 130,000 acres (52,600 hectares) of drought-parched scrub by Tuesday but crews had carved containment lines around a third of the fire's expanding perimeter, helped by diminished winds and high humidity.

The news was likewise more upbeat on the southern end of California's wildfire front, where a blaze called the Woolsey Fire has killed two people, destroyed more than 400 structures and displaced some 200,000 people in the mountains and foothills near the Malibu coast west of Los Angeles.

That blaze has scorched 96,000 acres (39,000 hectares) of chaparral-covered rolling hills and canyons spanning Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

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Beyond the loss of homes, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said the fire had destroyed "deep infrastructure" - power lines, water lines, sewers, roads, and lights - "and other things that make a city a city."

However, containment of the fire grew to 35 per cent on Tuesday as several communities previously under evacuation orders were reopened to residents, a sign firefighters were gaining the upper hand, Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said.

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Donald Trump declared a major disaster from the California wildfires on Monday night, making federal emergency funds more readily available in the stricken counties.

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Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth lost their Malibu home in the wildfire and are donating $500,000 (£385,300) to The Malibu Foundation through Cyrus' charity, The Happy Hippie Foundation. 

A statement from the couple says they "are very grateful to be safe along with their animals".

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National Guard troops were due to arrive on Wednesday to help search for more victims in the charred, ash-strewn ruins where the northern California town of Paradise stood, before it was erased in the deadliest, most destructive wildfire in state history.

The Guard contingent, about 100 military police trained to look for and identify human remains, will reinforce the coroner-led recovery teams, cadaver dogs and forensic anthropologists already scouring the ghostly landscape of a fire that has killed at least 48 people.

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While prospects for suppressing the fire grew more hopeful, authorities stepped up the grim task of sifting through rubble of homes obliterated in wind-driven flames that roared through Paradise, sending residents fleeing for their lives.

The bodies of some victims were found in and around the burned-out wreckage of vehicles engulfed in the firestorm as evacuation traffic halted in deadly knots of gridlock hours after the fire erupted.

"The fire was so rapid, we couldn't keep ahead of it," Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said.

In some cases, he said, victims were burned beyond recognition, or even beyond the use of fingerprint identification.

"We're finding remains in various states," he told reporters. "People have been badly burned. Some of them, I assume, have been consumed."

Mr Honea had previously said 228 people were listed as missing.

However, he said on Tuesday night those numbers were highly fluid and that his office planned to publish a new list of missing persons soon and would ask the public to help account for them.

He said it remained unclear how many individuals whose whereabouts were unknown had perished or fallen out of touch in chaotic evacuations.

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