With the historic California Camp Fire still raging, having consumed over 138,000 acres by Wednesday night and so far only 40% contained, authorities said that the number of people who had been killed in the deadliest wildfire in California history had grown to 56 with 297 people still unaccounted. According to the sheriff's office, more than 8,700 homes have been destroyed since the Camp Fire ignited on November 8.
"We'll be here for several years working this disaster," Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said at a news conference after he toured Paradise with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and California Gov. Jerry Brown.
"This is going to be a very long, a frustrating event for the citizens of Paradise," said Long, who added it would be reasonable for residents to conclude that rebuilding the city isn't worth it.
"The infrastructure is basically a total rebuild at this point," he said. "You're not going to be able to rebuild Paradise the way it was."
Brown described the scene as a "war zone," saying, "This is so devastating that I don't really have the words to describe it." The governor said President Donald Trump, with whom he has often clashed, called him on Wednesday to offer his full support.
"We're in a different kind of world, we know that," he said. "We're in for very difficult times. It'll never be the same. But I can assure you that everyone in California is going to do their best."
Zinke, meanwhile, called the devastation the worst wildfire damage that he had ever seen, calling for new policies and plans to avert a repeat. "This is unacceptable year after year after year," he said.
Officials haven't yet determined the cause of the fire, but Pacific Gas & Electric, or PG&E, said in an 8K earlier this week that its equipment may have sparked the blaze. It said it might not have enough insurance to cover the expected cost of the damage, resulting in a record drop in its stock price this week. On Wednesday, a group of Northern California fire lawyers sued PG&E in state Superior Court alleging that the company failed to properly maintain, repair and replace its equipment and that "its inexcusable behavior contributed to the cause of the 'Camp Fire.'
Separately, president Trump will survey damage this weekend from the deadliest wildfire in California’s history, after he incited a backlash by repeatedly threatening to cut off federal firefighting money even as the inferno and its death toll grew. Trump may visit the ruins of the town of Paradise, Bloomberg reported.
Meanwhile, several drone footage videos have emerged showing the full extent of the devastation in Paradise.