National Guard troops joined the grim search on Wednesday for more victims in the ruins of an incinerated northern California town while the death toll climbed to 56 in the most deadly and destructive wildfire in the state’s history.
The latest fatality count was announced as authorities released a revised list of 130 people reported missing by loved ones after flames largely obliterated the Sierra foothills town of Paradise, about 175 miles (280 km) north of San Francisco, last Thursday.
The majority on the list were over the age of 65. Nearly 230 people were initially reported as missing in the killer blaze, dubbed the Camp Fire. Most of those who remain unaccounted for are from Paradise, once home to 27,000 people.
More than 8,900 homes and other buildings burned to the ground in and around Paradise, and an estimated 50,000 people remained under evacuation orders in the area.
Adding to the misery of some survivors was an outbreak of norovirus, a highly contagious gastrointestinal illness, at a shelter housing about 200 evacuees in the nearby city of Chico.
Public health agency spokeswoman Lisa Almaguer said at least 20 people may have caught the virus.
The footprint of the six-day-old fire grew to 135,000 acres (55,000 hectares) as of Wednesday, even as diminished winds and rising humidity helped firefighters shore up containment lines around more than a third of the perimeter.
Still, the ghostly expanse of empty lots covered in ash and strewn with twisted wreckage and debris made a strong impression on Governor Jerry Brown, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and other officials who toured the devastation on Wednesday.
“This is one of the worst disasters I’ve seen in my career, hands down,” Brock Long, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told reporters in Chico.
“It looks like a war zone. It is a war zone,” Brown said.