Strong winds expected to hamper progress for crews battling Camp fire, which is still only 55% contained 10 days after it started
— Strong winds on Sunday were expected to hamper progress for crews battling California wildfires which have now claimed at least 79 lives.
Gusts of up to 50mph were threatening efforts to control the Camp blaze, which is still only 55% contained 10 days after it brought devastation to northern California.
The fire which destroyed nearly 10,000 homes and has spread across 233sq miles is already the deadliest American wildfire in a century.
And there are fears that the eventual death toll will rise much higher, with almost 1,300 people still unaccounted for.
However, it seems likely that number of missing persons may be an over-estimate amid confusion over the way the list has been compiled.
Butte county sheriff Kory Honea has stressed that the roster has been built up from missing person reports from calls, reports and emails since the fire began on 8 November. He has described it as “raw data” and said “there is the likely possibility that the list contains duplicate names” and some evacuees who have not reported themselves safe.
California’s outgoing Democratic governor Jerry Brown visited the scene of devastation at the town of Paradise with Donald Trump on Saturday.
He told CBS’s Face the Nation that Trump has “got our back” and has committed emergency support.
Trump initially blamed state officials for poor forest management in making the fires in northern and southern California worse and even threatened to cut off federal funding.
At the scene on Saturday, Trump recounted a conversation he had in Paris on 11 November with Finland’s president Sauli Niinisto, who talked about monitoring forest resources with a good surveillance system.
Trump said wildfires weren’t a problem in Finland because the Finns “spend a lot of time on raking” leaves and “cleaning and doing things”.
But Sauli Niinistö, president of Finland, told one of the country’s leading newspapers, Ilta-Sanomat, on Sunday that he never discussed raking with Trump.
“I mentioned [to] him that Finland is a land covered by forests and we also have a good monitoring system and network,” Niinistö said, but had no recollection of mentioning raking of leaves or forest undergrowth, which the president appears to have seized on as a key point in wildfire prevention, while dismissing the issue of global warming.
Asked on Saturday whether he thought climate change had a role in the fires, he said “you have a lot of factors”. And asked if seeing the devastation changed his mind on climate change, Trump said: “No. No. I have a strong opinion. I want great climate. We’re going to have that.”
Jerry Brown, in the interview aired on Sunday, said: “Changing climate and the increasing drought and the lower humidity and water vapor” were important factors.
He said: “Managing the forest is part of it. They’re a lot denser than they were 200 years ago. But on top of that, we have this five year drought. We have reduced rainfall. We have the dryness that turns vegetation and bushes and houses and trees into – literally into timber. So it’s ready to explode. So there is an atmospheric element which is part of the natural cycle and then there is an increasing effect of climate change.”
But asked if he had made that case to Trump, he said: “I certainly raised it but I didn’t feel that that was where we needed to go,” then added that science would be the guide for analysing the fires “and the president in no way negated that”.
The world’s leading experts recently warned of pending climate change catastrophe.
by David Taylor | The Guardian