Weather forecast menacing for crews battling deadly California wildfires
- Editor's Note: Our latest updates about the California wildfires can be seen here. Our original story appears below.
The forecast for crews battling the California wildfires was anything but promising Monday. Near hurricane-force gusts may be in the cards for some already scorched areas.
This, as the death toll from blazes ravaging both ends of California rose to at least 31 after the remains of several more people were found Sunday.
Gov. Jerry Brown is requesting a "major disaster declaration" from President Trump.
The so-called "Camp Fire" leveled nearly the entire city of Paradise, scorching thousands of homes and leaving its business district in ruins. More than 200 people were unaccounted for after the wildfire decimated the town of about 27,000, as crews stepped up search efforts for bodies and the missing. Authorities called in a DNA lab and teams of anthropologists to help identify victims.
The "Camp Fire," which began Thursday, has taken at least 29 lives and destroyed more than 6,700 structures, almost all of them homes. It's considered the most destructive fire in state history, and the death toll matches California's record for deaths in a single fire.
In Southern California, the "Woolsey Fire" tore through Malibu mansions and working-class suburban homes. At least two people have perished in that blaze. Along with the "Hill Fire," it prompted evacuation orders for more than 250,000 people.
Tempers flare among some evacuees
A town hall meeting quickly turned tense Sunday as fire evacuees demanded to know why there weren't more firefighters on-scene and why their homes were left undefended, reports CBS Los Angeles.
The community meeting at Taft High School in Woodland Hills to update residents on the Woolsey Fire and Hill Fire lasted about three hours.
Some evacuees also demanded answers about why there wasn't more communication when the fires broke out.
"Some of my neighbors have lost everything. And I'm not sure if my house is standing," one woman said, pointing at officials. "Please answer that."
CAL FIRE said, simply put, that the strain on resources has been enormous since so much of the state was under siege by flames and wind.
State Sen. Henry Stern tried to reassure the crowd, empathizing as he insisted he's also a victim of the fires.
"I still don't know if my home is standing. And I don't know if my grandparents' home is standing," he said.
"When you're in this position, you're homeless," Denise Pepper said. "There's nothing. Thank God I have my husband and we have our two dogs. You know, so, whatever help you can get. You want answers now, you do."
State and local fire, law enforcement and emergency management officials spoke to the public about the efforts in battling the blazes.
One question they couldn't answer is if President Trump would free up federal funds
"Right now it's pending," said FEMA's Veornica Verde. "But one of the things people can start to do now to start preparing is call their insurance company. Make sure they have that phone number and if they can, take photos of any damages."
New fire quickly contained
Fire officials in San Bernardino County, northeast of Los Angeles, said a new fire was contained almost as quickly as it broke out Sunday.
The San Bernardino County Fire District tweeted about the new blaze, which was dubbed the "University Fire":
Some evacuation orders for Woolsey Fire lifted
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deptartment is allowing people to return to their homes in parts of Agoura Hills and Westlake Village and re-opening a section of freeway due to progress made by firefighters battling the Woolsey Fire, reports CBS Los Angeles.
The department made the announcement Sunday evening for the L.A. County-side of communities located north of the 101 Freeway, the station says.
But officials stressed that there won't be any access to neighborhoods south of the freeway.
Officials update wildfire containment Sunday evening
Strong Santa Ana winds returned Sunday just as firefighters in Southern California were able to increase a containment line around the massive "Woolsey Fire," which has scorched more than 130 square miles, CBS Los Angeles reports.
The "Woolsey Fire" has been 25 percent contained, according to CalFire.
"The night before, firefighters were able to make a little bit of progress out there on the fire line and reinforced some of our containment lines," Fire Captain Tony Imbrenda, a public information officer for the Los Angeles County Fire Department, said. "As you can see, we have another Santa Ana wind condition that has moved into the area overnight."
CalFire says there are nearly 5,000 fire personnel battling the blaze, along with 571 total fire engines, 91 fire crews and 21 helicopters.
Man survives wildfire by hiding in creek with his dog
Matt Armbruster told CBS News he survived the "Woolsey Fire" by hiding in a creek with his dog to stay safe. Armbruster was told to evacuate but didn't. When the fire looked like it was coming for his home, he panicked and headed to a nearby creek.
Armbruster stayed there for almost two hours as the fire burned around him. He admitted that he thought he would die there. He said he was reluctant to share his story because not only did he survive, but so did his house when many in the area are returning to devastation.
Celebrities lose homes in Southern California
Actor Gerard Butler and Camille Grammer Meyer of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" are among the celebrities whose homes have been damaged or destroyed. Butler said on Instagram that his Malibu home is "half-gone," and shared a photo of himself standing in front of a burned-out section of the house and a badly burned vehicle.
Meyer's publicist said her home in Malibu was destroyed Saturday night. He said she's grateful to have safely evacuated with her family, is appreciative of firefighters who have risked their lives fighting the blaze, and is grateful to the love and concern shown for her.
"Sadly my house couldn't be saved. The courageous firefighters were able to save my cars and personal items recovered from my home," she wrote on Instagram. "Sad we lost our home but grateful that my family is safe."
Gold Rush-era bridge destroyed by flames
A celebrated 132-year-old Gold Rush-era wooden footbridge in Butte County is among the losses from a devastating Northern California wildfire.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the 238-foot Honey Run Covered Bridge near Chico was leveled in the in the fire that ripped through the area late Thursday. All that's left are charred wooden beams, rippled sheet metal and red steel beams protruding from concrete.
The newspaper reports it is the only three-span truss bridge of its kind in the United States. It was the backdrop for countless wedding and other celebration photos over the years and in recent years had been used for movie nights.
The Honey Run Covered Bridge was listed on the Register of Historic Places and even had its own association to look after it.
2 newspaper workers missing after wildfire
A Northern California newspaper is among those searching for missing people in the wake of the deadly wildfire. David Little, who is editor of the Chico Enterprise-Record and Oroville Mercury-Register, said they hope to hear from employees Dan Sloane and Sarah Release.
Sloane is a press operator who was scheduled to work Saturday but did not show. He lives in Magalia, which is one of the places hit hard in Butte County.Release works in classified ads and lives in Paradise, which was decimated by the "Camp Fire."
Little said friends of a second press operator told the publisher he was safe. "Our missing employees aren't more important than anyone else's -- but they're ours, so I'm trying," he tweeted. "I hope they and all the other missing people are safe, hunkered down somewhere."
Strong winds fanning Woolsey Fire
Strong Santa Ana winds have returned to Southern California, fanning a huge wildfire that has scorched a string of communities west of Los Angeles. A one-day lull in the dry, northeasterly winds ended Sunday morning and authorities warn that the gusts will continue through Tuesday.
Fire officials said the lull allowed firefighters to gain 10 percent control of the "Woolsey Fire," which has burned more than 80,000 acres in western Los Angeles County and southeastern Ventura County since Thursday.
Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said that means 90 percent of the fire lines are uncontained and there are numerous hotspots and plenty of fuel that has not burned.
Huge plumes of smoke are rising again in the fire area, which stretches miles from the northwest corner of Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley to the Malibu coast.
Governor requests federal disaster declaration
California Gov. Jerry Brown is requesting a "major disaster declaration" from the president for the wildfires burning at both ends of the state.
His office said in a statement Sunday that the declaration would bolster ongoing emergency assistance and help residents recover from fires burning in Butte, Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
If granted, the declaration would make individuals eligible for crisis counseling, housing and unemployment help, and legal aid.
Dozens still missing as recovery efforts continue
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said his department has reports of 110 people still missing from the fire, but said he's hopeful that more of those missing people will be located.
The department initially had more than 500 calls about citizens who were unable to reach loved ones. But he said they've been able to help locate many. Next he said sheriff's officials will be cross-checking their list with official shelters to search for the remaining missing.
Honea said Saturday that 23 people have died in the fire near Paradise, about 180 miles northeast of San Francisco.
Officials stepping up efforts to recover bodies
Authorities plan to step efforts to recover and identify people who died in a Northern California wildfire that has killed more than two dozen people.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said he will add another coroner's team to help find bodies in burned areas, and he ordered a DNA lab truck to assist in identifying human remains. Honea said in some cases, investigators have only found bones or bone fragments.
Officials are receiving expertise from anthropologists from nearby California State University, Chico.
The fire north of Sacramento has destroyed more 6,700 structures and driven more than 52,000 people from their homes.
"The fire behavior is just so intense"
Malibu looks like a war zone, with homes and businesses burned to the ground. Charred earth as far as the eye can see. All this, as the "Woolsey Fire" is still nowhere near contained, CBS News' Jamie Yuccas reports.
"It really seems like we are chasing it, it moves so fast, so aggressive, and the fire behavior is just so intense," said Mike Grosenbach, a Los Angeles County firefighter.
Firefighters are working to cut a perimeter around the fire. Students at Pepperdine University in Malibu were told to shelter in place as the flames crept neared campus. Nearby homeowners had minutes to get their horses to safety, turning the iconic Zuma Beach into a makeshift ranch.
"[The Pacific] felt like the safest place to be with the fresh air coming. At least you have fresh air coming off the ocean. The air was so thick last night, you could barely breathe," said homeowner Robin Elmasian.
Firefighter union president rips Trump
Brian K. Rice, the president of the California Professional Firefighters, criticized President Trump on Saturday after he threatened to withhold federal payments to the state, claiming its forest management is "so poor." The president made the comments as the state is battling multiple deadly wildfires.
"The president's message attacking California and threatening to withhold aid to the victims of the cataclysmic fires is ill-informed, ill-timed and demeaning to those who are suffering as well as the men and women on the front lines," Brian K. Rice said in a statement.
"Wildfires are sparked and spread not only in forested areas but in populated areas and open fields fueled by parched vegetation, high winds, low humidity and geography," Rice said.
He added, "Moreover, nearly 60 percent of California forests are under federal management, and another two-thirds under private control. It is the federal government that has chosen to divert resources away from forest management, not California."
3 major fires by the numbers
Firefighters are battling three major wildfires in California. Here's a breakdown by the numbers as of Saturday evening, according to Cal Fire and local officials.
- Location: Butte County
- 105,000 acres burned
- 20 percent contained
- 23 fatalities confirmed, 3 firefighters injured
- 115 people missing
- 6,453 residences destroyed, including 260 commercial
- Location: Ventura County
- 83,000 acres burned
- 200,000 residents under mandatory evacuation
- Zero percent contained
- Location: Ventura County
- 4,531 acres burned
- 25 percent contained
More towns empty in Northern California
Authorities in Northern California have ordered residents to leave four small communities southeast of a town leveled by a deadly wildfire. The Butte County Sheriff's Office on Saturday issued an evacuation order for the communities of Berry Creek, Bush Creek, Mountain House, and Bloomer Hill.
National Weather Service meteorologist Alex Hoon says the area will see winds of up to 30 miles per hour with ridges seeing gusts of up to 50 mph starting Saturday night.
Two deaths under investigation
Two people have been found dead in the fire zone of a Southern California blaze, Los Angeles County sheriff's Chief John Benedict said. He gave no details on the deaths and said Saturday that sheriff's detectives are investigating.
Benedict and other officials spoke Saturday about the "Woolsey Fire," which has more than doubled in size. It is now 70,000 acres, according to fire officials.
Officials took advantage of temporarily calm conditions to assess damage.
Calmer winds offer chance to block blazes
Firefighters hoped a narrow window of calm Saturday would give them a chance to block Southern California wildfires that have marched on an inexorable path of destruction toward the sea, burning everything from mobile homes to mansions.
Winds that drove the flames through bone-dry hills and canyons north and west of downtown Los Angeles were expected to die down until Sunday, when they would build again to 35 mph with even higher gusts, forecasters predicted.
The lull Saturday could give firefighters a chance to control the edges of the blazes and to swap fire crews, replacing firefighters who had worked for two days without rest, Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said. But with the winds returning, it's likely more homes would be lost, Osby warned.
"There's not going to be any relief in this firefight," he said.
Red Flag Warning extended in California
A Red Flag Warning denoting a high risk of wildfire has been extended in California until Tuesday, CBS Los Angeles reports.
Red Flag Warnings are issued for conditions that could lead to "extreme fire behavior" within 24 hours, according to Cal Fire.
The National Weather Service Sacramento said "critical fire weather conditions" are expected across Northern California Saturday night to Monday morning "due to strong winds & dry conditions."
The National Weather Service Los Angeles said more winds are also expected in Southern California.
"After a brief period of light winds today, expect another round of Santa Ana winds expected Sunday morning through Tuesday," it tweeted. "Peak winds each morning through early afternoon hours. Here is a graphic for Sunday's expected gusts. Thanks to all the firefighters!"
Wildfires besiege city reeling from mass shooting
A city reeling from the tragedy of a mass shooting was under a siege of a different sort Friday as raging wildfires on both sides of the city forced widespread evacuations and shut down part of the main freeway to town.
For Thousand Oaks, which had been considered one of the safest cities in the nation before a gunman massacred 12 people at a country music bar, the spasm of violence jolted the city's sense of security. Encroaching flames, despite the near-constant threat of fire in the bone-dry state, presented an entirely different hazard.
"It's devastating. It's like 'welcome to hell,'" resident Cynthia Ball said about the dual disasters while she was outside the teen center serving as a shelter for evacuees. "I don't even know what to say. It's like we're all walking around kind of in a trance."
A day earlier, the facility had been the location where grieving family members had gathered and received the grim news on the fate of loved ones who had not returned from the Borderline Bar and Grill, where a Marine combat veteran went on a shooting rampage Wednesday. The investigation into what drove 28-year-old Ian David Long to kill was continuing even as the city about 40 miles from Los Angeles was under threat. Three-quarters of the city of 130,000 was under evacuation orders, and that likely included people affected by the shooting, Thousand Oaks Mayor Andy Fox said.
Flames in Malibu race down hillsides toward the Pacific
The Woolsey Fire near Los Angeles is smaller than the "Camp Fire" burning in Northern California but is threatening hundreds of thousands of people as flames surge toward the Pacific Ocean.
CBS News correspondent Jamie Yuccas reported Saturday morning that flames in Malibu are racing down hillsides toward the Pacific. The fire has grown to 35,000 acres, or 54 square miles - roughly the size of Akron, Ohio.
Overnight, it showed no signs of slowing down as homes reduced to their foundations toppled to the ground. Bone-dry conditions and unrelenting winds have blown the blaze forward at a breakneck pace. Firefighters are struggling to keep up.
The Woolsey Fire and smaller Hill blaze have destroyed more than 150 homes and prompted evacuation orders for about 250,000 people from Thousand Oaks northwest of Los Angeles to Malibu.
Trump threatens to withhold federal payments
President Donald Trump is threatening to withhold federal payments to California, claiming its forest management is "so poor."
Mr. Trump said Saturday "there is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly fires in California." He said "billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!"
The comments were Mr. Trump's first about the massive wildfires burning in California, including a blaze that incinerated most of the Northern California town of Paradise and killed at least nine people.
Utility company will cooperate with investigation
The Pacific Gas & Electric Company said it will cooperate with any investigations stemming from the massive wildfire in Northern California. The company told state regulators Thursday that it experienced a problem on an electrical transmission line near the site of the blaze minutes before the fire broke out.
The company said it later observed damage to a transmission tower on the line. Lynsey Paulo, a company spokesperson, said the information was preliminary and stressed the cause of the fire has not been determined.
Death toll rises to 9
At least nine people were killed by the wildfire in Paradise, California, authorities said. The fire has burned 90,000 acres and destroyed more than 6,700 structures.
Three of the victims were found outside homes and four others inside vehicles, Butte County Sheriff Korey Honea said Friday. Another victim was found near outside their vehicle, he said.
Wildfire causes "utter panic" as people try to escape
As the fast-moving fire ravaged Northern California, highways were jammed with cars as people desperately tried to escape. One man battled burning ash as he tried to find a way out. He's safe now, but others were forced to abandon their cars and run for their lives.
Five miles north of Paradise, Tisha Aroyo and her grandfather stayed behind. He said he thought he could save her house, but they would only watch helplessly as their home burned.
JT Ford and his wife Stacey went to a nearby pasture, where they watched their home go up in flames. "The fire roared through so quick it was only an hour of utter panic and fear because then everything burned out," Ford said.
Flames have moved so quickly there's not a lot firefighters can do. "That fire from the second it started was off to the races," said Ken Pimlott, director of Cal Fire. "It's all hands on deck to rescue people and get people out of harm's way."
Celebrities forced to evacuate homes
Caitlyn Jenner, Kim Kardashian West, Alyssa Milano and Lady Gaga were among the celebrities forced to evacuate their homes. The Woolsey Fire also destroyed famous set locations including the Paramount Ranch Western Town set home to HBO's "Westworld." It also partially destroyed the mansion used in filming ABC's reality series "The Bachelor," Entertainment Tonight reported.
"Pray for Calabasas. Just landed back home and had 1 hour to pack up & evacuate our home," Kardashian West wrote on Instagram while sharing video of the blaze. "Firefighters are arriving. Thank you for all that you do for us!!!"
Meanwhile, Milano tweeted Friday, "If anyone can get 5 horses out the fire please help me." She later said the horses and her children were safe.
Rainn Wilson said his house was evacuated due to the fires. He asked his Twitter followers to pray for residents in Thousand Oaks following the shooting that left 12 people dead, writing that they are now forced to deal with the wildfires.
Smoke from wildfire pollutes San Francisco air
Authorities issued an unhealthy air quality alert for parts of the San Francisco Bay Area as smoke from the "Camp Fire" drifts south, polluting the air. The air in San Francisco Friday was hazy and the smell of smoke was overwhelming.
Officials advised older people and children to move physical activities indoors. All people were encouraged to limit their outdoor activities.
Southern California fire forces evacuation of Malibu
The entire city of Malibu was ordered to evacuate Friday morning as the "Woolsey Fire" roared toward the beachside community that is home for many Hollywood celebrities. A city-wide evacuation was ordered early Friday and then was scaled back, only to be reinstated.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department tweeted that the fire raging through the Santa Monica Mountains was headed to the ocean. Malibu has about 13,000 residents and lies along 21 miles of coast at the southern foot of the mountain range.
"Imminent threat!" the department said in its warning.