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As of Wednesday night, the North Complex Fire has destroyed at least 635 homes. The blaze is now the 14th most destructive in California history, having leveled 983 structures, according to state fire officials.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said one person is still unaccounted for, down from two on Tuesday, and said his office is pursuing leads on their whereabouts. He said no additional human remains were found Wednesday, leaving the fire’s reported death toll at 15.
Twelve of the people who died have been identified, including two whose names were released Wednesday.
One was Mark Delagardie, 61, of Berry Creek. A friend of his had asked officials to check Delagardie’s home on Bean Creek Road. Honea said his remains were found Monday.
“Mr. Delagardie’s friend was concerned because Mr. Delagardie ignored evacuation orders and chose to stay at his residence,” Honea said.
The other person identified was Kin Lee, 64, of Berry Creek. Honea said on Sept. 8, Lee spoke to family over the phone around 10 p.m. from his home near Star Crest Lane and said he was aware of the fire and would evacuate if flames became visible.
Lee’s remains were found two days later. Honea said Lee’s family expressed concern about his name being publicly released because they do not want to be contacted by reporters.
Previously, authorities identified 10 others who died:
- Jacob Albright, 74, of Feather Falls
- Randy Harrell, 67, of Feather Falls
- Paul Winer, 68, of Berry Creek
- John Butler, age 79 of Berry Creek
- Sandra Butler, age 75 of Berry Creek
- Jorge Hernandez-Juarez, age 26 of Berry Creek
- Philip Rubel, age 68 of Berry Creek
- Khawar Bhatti, age 58 of Berry Creek
- Millicent Catarancuic, age 77 of Berry Creek
- Josiah Williams, age 16 of Berry Creek
The fire is an estimated 273,335 acres and 36% contained. The West Zone of the fire is 77,671 acres and 30% contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Those numbers haven’t changed since Wednesday morning.
A map of evacuated areas in Butte County can be found at ButteCounty.net/Sheriff.
In total, 3.3 million acres have burned in California since Aug. 15, according to Cal Fire.
Weather conditions may play a big role in containing the fire, which has now been active for 28 days. According to Cal Fire, last night’s cooler temperatures and light winds helped reduce fire behavior.
North Complex Fire: Containment decreases to 34% while size rises to 273,335 acres
Also, 23,356 structures are threatened by the fire.
Parts of Lake Oroville State Recreation Area will be closed until further notice due to the fire, state park officials announced Wednesday afternoon.
In a video posted on the Plumas National Forest Facebook page, Operations Section Chief, Jake Cagle, discussed the current situation with the fire and the plan of operation.
Overall, the first responders are making some headway. Firefighters expect the fire to move east into La Porte and are making efforts to minimize damage. Residents should pay attention to their local sheriff’s office for additional details and look out for advisory notices.
They are also monitoring the areas near Oro Quincy Road because it is a receptive fuel bed — meaning it contains fuel such as old wood that could facilitate a spot fire — as a result from the old Buck’s Fire in 1999. Environmental factors and winds will impact the spot fire in the area. However, they will plan on using aerial imagery and helicopters to mitigate any complications.
The smoke and air quality conditions are expected to be similar to yesterday’s, according to the Plumas National Forest Facebook page. However, it is expected to improve in most areas Thursday.
According to the Air Quality Index (AQI), Reno’s current air quality is at an unhealthy level. Individuals should limit their exposure outdoors and consider working out indoors.
Kristin Oh is a public safety reporter for the Reno Gazette Journal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please help support her work by subscribing.