Elderly Woman Is First Victim Identified of 31 Killed in California Wildfires

Getty Images
Getty Images

More than 200 people remained missing as of Sunday.

At least 31 people have died in wildfires burning across parts of Northern and Southern California. 

One of the first victims to be identified was Ellen Walker, who was found inside her burned home in Concow. Walker, who was in her 70s, was home alone and sick when the Camp Fire started on Thursday.

A family friend said Walker was sick and home alone when the fire began Thursday morning. Nancy Breeding said Walker's husband, Lon, was at work and had called a neighbor to knock on the door to get his wife to evacuate, but it's unclear whether she was alert at the time.

Breeding said Walker's family thought she escaped the blaze until authorities confirmed her death Friday.

"This week, California has experienced the most destructive fires we have seen in its history. There are 196,000 acres burned, thousands of homes and dozens of lives lost," Chief Scott Jalbert of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said Sunday. The flames have destroyed 7,000 structures as well, according to authorities. 

The deadliest blaze is the Camp Fire, which burned through communities in the Sierra foothills starting on Thursday, killing 29. The fire has burned 109,000 acres and destroyed 6,435 homes in the area.

Two people were also killed in a Southern California fire in the Malibu and Los Angeles suburbs.

More than 149,000 have been evacuated due to the fires, California Gov. Jerry Brown said Sunday. 

The Camp Fire was just 25 percent contained as of Sunday, while more than 200 people remained missing. Officials have issued red flag warnings, representing extreme danger for the Northern California area.

Search teams have been deployed to the affected areas, and experts have been called in to help identify victims.

"This is truly a tragedy that all Californians can understand and respond to," Brown said. "It's a time to pull together and work through these tragedies."

Brown, who declared a state of emergency, is requesting aid from the Trump administration. 

President Trump said the fires were caused by “poor” forest management. Brown, however, emphasized that is not the source of the problem. 

"Managing all the forests everywhere we can does not stop climate change," Brown said. "And those who deny that are definitely contributing to the tragedies that we're now witnessing, and will continue to witness in the coming years."