Death toll rises to 81 in Northern California’s Camp Fire, as rain could trigger mudslides

Posted at 10:28 PM, Nov 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-21 00:28:35-05

Crews searching fire-ravaged communities in Northern California for human remains were in a race against the weather Tuesday with rain in the forecast. The precipitation could help knock out the flames, but it could also hinder the search by washing away fragmentary remains and turning ash into a thick paste.

“The material that we’re dealing with it’s heavily, you know, ash and soot, and when the water touches that, it kinda turns to sediment, almost like soil again,” federal search-and-rescue team member Brian Ferreira said. “It is kinda urgent, yeah, that we get through this as quick as we can.”

Almost 700 people were reported missing in the Camp Fire. Meanwhile, two more people were found dead Tuesday, bringing the death toll to 81. Statewide, the count stands at 84 killed.

Lonnie Quinn, chief weathercaster at CBS New York, said rain could hit the area Wednesday and again Friday. Some fire-scarred areas could get half an inch of rain an hour, which could trigger mudslides.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said the threat of mudslides would stress an already fragile community. “It is the potential of dealing with one disaster and having, you know, something else pile on top of us,” Honea said.

Los Angeles County officials have set up a website for residents to prepare for the possibility of rain, including information about free sand bangs, road closures and emergency alerts.