Death toll rises to 44 in California deadly wildfires

California fire

Forty-four persons are feared dead in the inferno that ravaged the wooded town of Paradise in northern California, becoming the deadliest wildfire in the state’s modern history.

Thousands of firefighters on Monday spent a fifth-day digging battle line to contain the “Camp Fire” in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains north of Sacramento, while search teams were on a grim mission to recover the dead.

The Butte County sheriff, Kory L. Honea, said more than 200 people are still missing as a result of the fire.

“As of today, an additional 13 human remains have been recovered, which brings the total number to 42.

“My sincere hope is that I don’t have to come here each night and report a higher and higher number,” Honea said at a news conference on Monday night.

“The blaze is the deadliest wildland fire in California history,” Honea added.

The fire, which continues to rage in the hills and ravines east of the city of Chico, is also the most destructive fire in California history, with more than 7,100 structures destroyed.

Although it is difficult to be certain due to inconsistencies in record keeping and categorization, the Camp Fire appears to be the deadliest American wildfire in a century since the Cloquet Fire which killed an estimated 1,000 people in Minnesota in 1918.

The Camp Fire is the largest of several infernos that have sent a quarter of a million people fleeing their homes across the tinder-dry state, with winds of up to 60 miles (100 kilometres) per hour fanning the fast-moving flames.

In addition to the historic loss of life, the Camp Fire blaze is also more destructive than any other on record, having razed 6,500 homes in the town of Paradise, effectively wiping it off the map.