The Camp Fire, One Week Later

At least 56 people have died, about 100 are officially missing, and about 8,650 homes have been destroyed.

The Camp Fire on Day 1 in Butte County, 175 miles northeast from San Francisco. (Photo courtesy Cal Fire)

A week has passed since the Camp Fire emerged, since claiming at least 56 lives in Butte County and the title of deadliest fire in state history.

Tragically, the death toll is likely to grow. Of the roughly 100 people listed missing in a partial list released by Butte County Sheriff’s Department on Wednesday, most are seniors who may have mobility issues. San Francisco native, 63-year-old Ernie Foss whose family cared for him in a bedridden state, has caught local attention.

No civilian injuries have been reported but of 5,473 personnel, three firefighters have been injured in the effort to put out the blaze about 175 miles northeast of San Francisco, near Chico.

Many people fleeing the fire won’t have a home to return to — about 8,650 residences and 260 commercial buildings have been destroyed. Another 15,500 structures are threatened.

With 140,000 acres burned and 40 percent of the fire contained, Cal Fire expects full containment by Nov. 30. That can’t come soon enough for people seeking shelter. Bidwell Jr. High School, Yuba-Sutter Fairground and Butte County Fairgrounds are open as evacuation centers but three other shelters have filled up. 

Unsurprisingly, another lawsuit has been filed against PG&E for alleged negligence in maintaining power lines. The cause of the Camp Fire is under investigation but the suit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, claims the failure of PG&E high voltage transmission line ignited the flames.

San Franciscans are feeling some effects, too. Air quality was considered unhealthy much of this week, standing at an index of 177 on Wednesday evening, causing San Francisco State University to cancel classes on Thursday and Friday.

It’s recommended to stay indoors with shut windows or to use N95, N100, or reusable air masks if outside. Reducing air pollution by reducing driving is also recommended, as a Spare the Air alert has been issued through Friday.

As talk increases of a new normal, it doesn’t hurt to hit purchase on that reusable air mask, air purifiers, and to assemble an emergency kit. And, of course, squeeze your loved ones just a little tighter than usual.

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