WASHINGTON – Officials in California’s Butte County, where the gigantic “Camp Fire” erupted, reduced the number of missing persons to 993, although the death toll remains at 77, local media reported Monday.
The county sheriff’s office updated the number of missing persons late Sunday, reducing the figure of 1,276 reported on Saturday by 283.
The officials did not say why the missing persons total had been reduced, but in recent days they have insisted that such estimates may vary as authorities collect and compare all information derived from calls and e-mails reporting people missing.
“This is a dynamic list. It will fluctuate both up and down, every day,” Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told reporters.
Honea admitted last Friday that some of the people missing could appear twice on the list, while others could be safe and be unaware that someone is looking for them.
The Camp Fire started on Nov. 8 and quickly spread, completely engulfing the town of Paradise with 26,000 inhabitants – the vast majority of whom evacuated and are safe – and destroying more than 13,000 buildings.
As of Sunday night, firefighters reportedly had managed to get the wildfire 65% contained.
The fire brigades – who in the last few hours have experienced difficulties battling the flames because of strong winds – are hoping that the National Weather Service forecast for rain on Wednesday is correct, although the fire is burning in an extremely dry region where it has not rained for months.
Meteorologists say they are “almost certain” that there will be rain that day in Butte County, although not enough to increase the risk of mudslides in the area burned by the fire.
The anticipated rain would also help alleviate the situation elsewhere in the state, which has been on red alert for days due to poor air quality, given that the smoke from the fire travels hundreds of miles and is affecting populated areas such as the state capital of Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area.