Some 1,300 people are still unaccounted for as the deadliest wildfire in California’s history continues to rage. Now, more than a week since the blaze first ignited, rescue crews continue to work around the clock in a desperate effort to locate those still missing.
Butte County Sheriff said that names are continuously being added to the missing list, before noting that it was within the “realm of possibility” that officials would never know the exact number of fatalities.
On Sunday afternoon, a memorial service was held for victims of the fire at First Christian Church in Chico.
“The Town of Paradise is strong and resilient,” read an announcement that provided details of Sunday’s service. “We are currently in the midst of the worst disaster our town has ever experienced. As we band together, the best of us is coming out – our resilience, strength and downright grit; our kindness, decency and generosity; and above all, our essential humanity.”
— Damon Arthur (@damonarthur_RS) November 19, 2018
The official town website, which has now been devoted to releasing information on how residents can begin to rebuild their homes, noted that the service was designed to “give residents the chance to quietly reflect, bring photos or mementos of lost friends, family and pets and talk with counselors and mental health experts or sit quietly and pray.”
— David Beard (@dabeard) November 19, 2018
“While there will be tough days ahead, there is absolutely no question that we’ll get through this,” the announcement concluded. “We’re rebuilding together because we are Paradise and we are Paradise Strong.”
“We ask for continued strength as they are growing weary right now,” said Pastor Jesse Kearns in a prayer for first responders.
President Trump visited the devastated area Saturday, remarking that the extent of the damage was “unacceptable.”
“We’ve never seen anything like this in California; we’ve never seen anything like this yet,” he said, according to The Associated Press. “It’s like total devastation.”
Total devastation in Paradise, CA. Truly heartbreaking but so powerful to see the strength of the people here. President @realDonaldTrump stood w/ @JerryBrownGov, @GavinNewsom, and Mayor Jody Jones to say we are with you and working together to help. pic.twitter.com/QtdXdPek20
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) November 17, 2018
“We are with you all the way – God Bless you all!” Trump tweeted.
— Jerry Brown (@JerryBrownGov) November 16, 2018
Northern California’s fierce Camp Fire has decimated about 10,500 homes and scorched some 233 square miles of land. As of Monday, it is still under 70 percent contained. With gusting winds forecast for later this week, California’s firefighters will likely be required to struggle on in their monumental battle against this wild inferno.
The fire also continues to threaten public health, with the billowing smoke causing the air quality to become some of the worst in the world.
Northern California officially has the worst air quality in the world — topping cities like Mumbai and Beijing — due to the deadly Camp Fire pic.twitter.com/jnKvhwN0xn
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) November 19, 2018
Still, there are glimmers of hope. Like when firefighter Ryan Coleman rescue a displaced cat from the fires, and the two immediately became best friends.
Kitty rescue. She just chilled on my neck and shoulders as I’d walk around.
Cat loves firefighter who rescued it from wildfire in Paradise, California. pic.twitter.com/dKyzOOZFyx
— Noga Tarnopolsky (@NTarnopolsky) November 18, 2018
Another hero emerged in the form of 41-year-old bus driver, Kevin McKay, who rescued some 22 school children after fashioning makeshift gas masks using nothing but the fabric of his shirt. McKay managed to safely evacuate teachers and students from Ponderosa Elementary School and was described as “the bus driver from heaven.”
Do continue to pray for all those affected by this devastating fire.