The fires in northern California continue to devastate the state. The death toll rose to 42 people Monday night, making this the deadliest wildfire ever in the state, according to officials. Authorities announced that 13 more bodies were found during searches on Monday. The death toll is expected to continue to rise.
Many of the bodies were found in burned-out cars among the ruins of their homes, or next to their vehicles. Most were likely overcome by smoke and flames before they could even get behind the wheels of their cars to escape.
The news of the growing tragedy comes after President Trump approved a “major disaster declaration” in the Golden State early Monday evening.
“I just approved an expedited request for a Major Disaster Declaration for the State of California. Wanted to respond quickly in order to alleviate some of the incredible suffering going on. I am with you all the way. God Bless all of the victims and families affected,” Trump said on Twitter.
California Gov. Jerry Brown requested the declaration on Sunday. It will increase ongoing emergency assistance and help residents recover from fires burning in Butte, Los Angeles, and Ventura counties. Brown’s declaration asked to make individuals eligible for crisis counseling, housing and unemployment help, and legal aid.
More than 8,000 firefighters statewide were battling wildfires that destroyed more than 7,000 structures and burned more than 325 square miles.
As the search for victims continues, friends and relatives of the missing called hospitals, police, shelters and the coroner’s office in hopes of learning what became of their loved ones. Hundreds of people were unaccounted for by the sheriff’s office four days after the fire swept over the town of 27,000 and practically wiped it off the map. Authorities brought in a mobile DNA lab and forensic anthropologists to help identify the dead.
Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said about 57,000 homes have been saved from the so-called Woolsey fire, which burned a path about 20 miles long and 14 miles wide — from northwest of Los Angeles through suburbs and the Santa Monica Mountains to the Malibu coast.
Trump received major criticism after he issued an emergency declaration to provide funds to help firefighters in California. The president threatened to withhold federal payments — citing the state’s “gross mismanagement” of its forests.
Tweeting from Paris early Saturday, Trump wrote that ”there is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly fires in California.” He added that “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!”