Sunday 18 November 2018

Dozens remain unaccounted for as California wildfires abate

Firefighter tackles blaze along a California highway (AP photo/Jae C. Hong)
Firefighter tackles blaze along a California highway (AP photo/Jae C. Hong)

About 60 people remain unaccounted for in the California counties of Napa and Sonoma more than a week after deadly wildfires started in the US state.

Crews have made progress controlling the blazes, but reported the first death from the firefighting effort after a driver was killed when his truck overturned on a winding mountain road.

The driver, who was delivering water to the fire lines, crashed before dawn in Napa County on a road that climbs from vineyards into the mountains.

He was identified as volunteer firefighter Garrett Paiz, 38, of Missouri, a privately contracted water tender driver.

After days of gusts that constantly fanned the fires, better weather offered a chance for crews to get the upper hand more than a week after the blazes, which have killed at least 40 people, started devastating the state's celebrated wine country.

The smoky skies started to clear in some places, and thousands of people got the all-clear to return home.

About 40,000 evacuees are still waiting for permission to go back to their communities, down from 100,000 on Saturday.

The number of missing people has reduced from roughly 100 on Monday, although it is unclear how many people are actually missing because reports have included duplicate names or names of people who were safe but unable to call relatives.

Some people reported as missing also never knew someone had been looking for them.


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