Recovery

Northern California Camp Fire: Death Toll, Number of Missing Skyrockets as Firefighters Gain Ground

At a Thursday night press conference, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea announced the death toll had climbed to 63 and 631 people are now unaccounted for. By Friday, fire personnel had increased containment to 45 percent and reported that the blaze grew by only 1,000 acres overnight.

by Gwendolyn Wu, San Francisco Chronicle / November 16, 2018
In this Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018 file photo smoke hangs over the scorched remains of Old Town Plaza following the wildfire in Paradise, Calif. Most homes are gone, as are hundreds of shops and other buildings. The supermarket, the hardware store, Dolly-O-Donuts & Gifts where locals started their day with a blueberry fritter and a quick bit of gossip, all gone. The town quite literally went up in smoke and flames in the deadliest, most destructive wildfire in California history. AP/Noah Berger

(TNS) - More than 600 people are still missing as the horrific Camp Fire continues to burn in Butte County, consuming 142,000 acres as of Friday morning and leaving thousands homeless.

At a Thursday night press conference, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea announced the death toll had climbed to 63 and 631 people are now unaccounted for. By Friday, fire personnel had increased containment to 45 percent and reported that the blaze grew by only 1,000 acres overnight.

The National Weather Service warned that Butte County could see another uptick in winds this weekend, as 40 mph gusts could sweep through the Camp Fire burn zone. However, the area is not under a red-flag warning, which indicates bone-dry conditions that help fires spread.

“We watch the weather alerts religiously, so we will be strengthening fire lines in those affected areas that the wind may push the fire toward,” said Scott McLean, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “We’re prepared and we’ll get an early jump on the areas that may be affected.”

Parts of the Bay Area are still facing “purple” air quality levels, indicating that the air is still so polluted that it could adversely affect even healthy people’s respiratory health. Large swaths of Bay Area public schools and universities closed Thursday and Friday due to the smoke.

Smoke may linger over the region through next week, according to the National Weather Service.

Gwendolyn Wu is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: gwendolyn.wu@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @gwendolynawu