The Latest: Northern California fire death toll climbs to 86
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Latest on destructive California wildfires (all times local):
Authorities in Northern California say the death toll from a destructive wildfire has decimated the town of Paradise has climbed from 85 to 86.
The Butte County Sheriff’s office said Tuesday that Larry Smith of Paradise was burned while trying to put out flames that had surrounded his car. The 80-year-old Smith died of his injuries after Thanksgiving, nearly three weeks after the fire started Nov. 8.
The sheriff’s office also identified 90-year-old Shirlee Teays of Paradise as among the dead.
The number of people unaccounted for stands at 3.
Authorities estimate it will cost at least $3 billion to clear debris from 19,000 homes destroyed by three California wildfires last month.
State and federal disaster relief officials said Tuesday that private contractors will likely begin removing debris in January in Butte, Ventura and Los Angeles counties, and costs are likely to surpass initial estimates. Most of the work will occur in Northern California where the state’s most destructive wildfire destroyed the city of Paradise.
California Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci says the cleanup cost will exceed the $1.3 billion the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers spent on debris removal in Northern California in 2017. Hundreds of homeowners complained contractors paid by the ton hauled away too much dirt.
Ghilarducci says the state will manage cleanup contracts this time.