As the confirmed death toll rises to 74 in the California wildfires, more than 1011 residents have been reported missing.
A list of 630 names aged between 21 and 92 were listed on the Butte County Sheriff’s Office website alone several days after the bushfires erupted on November 8.
Three other deaths occurred in the Woolsey Fire in southern California, making the statewide death toll 74.
Recovery workers with cadaver-sniffing dogs are continuing to sift through the ashes and wreckage of homes and towns across parts of northern and southern California.
The Camp Fire in Butte County, about 300km northeast of San Francisco, already ranks as the Golden State’s most deadly blaze in more than a century.
“A lot of people are displaced, a lot of people don’t know we’re looking for them,” Butte County Sheriff and coroner Kory Honea said.
While firefighters continue their efforts to contain the blaze, more than 300 National Guard troops have been deployed to the fire zone as part of a massive effort to find the missing.
Evacuees are wearing white surgical masks in a vain effort to avoid choking on air so thick with smoke it exceeds air pollution levels reported in China and India that regularly rank among the worst in the world.
Acrid smoke from the fires has blanketed San Francisco. Authorities have issued warnings that prompted schools to close. Even the city’s iconic cable cars were removed from service as health officials urged everyone with no compelling reason to be outside to remain indoors.
Remains of the dead were recovered from incinerated homes and cremated cars in and around the Sierra foothills hamlet of Paradise, which was home to nearly 27,000 residents, many of them retired and elderly, before the Camp Fire ravaged much of the town through the night.
Emergency officials fear the limited mobility of many Paradise seniors doomed them when they were unable to escape.
Driven by howling winds and fuelled by drought-desiccated scrub and trees, the Camp Fire has also destroyed 9700 homes and scorched close to 6000 hectares of land.
The rise in the amount of unaccounted people follows authorities combing through a week-long backlog of 911 phone calls, incident reports and relatives reporting missing loved ones.
“You have to understand, this is a dynamic list,” Sheriff Honea told CNN.
“Some days might be less people, some days might be more people, but my hope at the end of the day [is] we have accounted for everybody.”
Sheriff Honea said the list has been published on his department’s website, adding that if people find their names on the list, or names of loved ones they know are safe, to call the sheriff’s office.
Firefighters are carving containment lines and have managed to surround around 45 per cent of the blaze’s perimeter.
More than 52,000 people are displaced in shelters, motels and the homes of friends and relatives.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump is expected to tour the region on Sunday (Saturday local time) to survey the damage, with suggestions he may face resentment from locals for blaming the inferno on poor forest management in California.
In a scheduled Fox News interview taped on Friday and to be broadcast on Sunday (local time), Mr Trump said he was surprised to see images of firefighters removing dried brush near a fire, adding: “This should have been all raked out.”
— FoxNewsSunday (@FoxNewsSunday) November 16, 2018
Some survivors resent Mr Trump’s observations, announced on Twitter just two days after the disaster began, and his threat to withhold federal payments from California.
He later posted several tweets praising the “heroism, courage and genius” of all the first line responders.
With proper Forest Management, we can stop the devastation constantly going on in California. Get Smart!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 11, 2018
“If you insult people, then you go visit them, how do you think you’re going to be accepted? You’re not going to have a parade,” Maggie Crowder, of Magalia, said on Thursday (local time) outside an informal shelter at a Walmart parking lot in Chico.
But pro-Trump supporter Stacy Lazzarino said it would be good for the President to see the devastation up close: “I think by maybe seeing it he’s going to be like ‘Oh, my goodness,’ and it might start opening people’s eyes.”
In his Fox News interview on the eve of his visit, the President repeated his criticism.
Asked if he thought climate change contributed to the fires, he said:
“Maybe it contributes a little bit. The big problem we have is management.”