More deaths expected after California wildfires

  • 17/09/2015
More than 600 homes have been destroyed in the fires (Reuters)
More than 600 homes have been destroyed in the fires (Reuters)

California authorities expect to find several more bodies amid the ashes of a fast-moving wildfire, as cadaver dogs and their handlers search for a man feared to have perished, and the discovery of a woman's body.

An elderly, disabled woman's body was found on Monday (local time) in the ruins of her destroyed Lake County home, and authorities are searching nearby for a 69-year-old man reported missing by his family.

His burned-out car was found on the route he would have used to escape.

"We've already had a confirmed loss of one life," Lake County Sheriff Brian Martin said while on a tour of the disaster zone with state emergency officials.

"We have reports of several others that may have perished in the fire."

State and local officials have inspected the devastated region about 160 kilometres north of San Francisco on Wednesday morning, viewing still-smouldering ruins.

The officials are contemplating asking President Barack Obama for emergency federal assistance.

Obama and Governor Jerry Brown are expected to discuss the matter on Wednesday.

"It's not a pretty picture," said Kim Zagaris, the state's fire chief, on the tour.

"There's going to be a lot of heartbreak for the folks who live out here."

Zagaris said officials have counted 603 homes destroyed, but he expects that number to rise.

Sheriff's deputies and others have responded to a number of missing-persons reports since the fire broke out on Saturday.

Many of those unaccounted for could be staying with relatives, on vacation or not affected by the fire, officials said.

Aided by drought, the fire has consumed more than 280 square kilometres since the flames sped through rural Lake County, but crews are gaining ground on the fire and have been aided by cooler weather and heavy rain.

The Lake County fire and another blaze about 195 kilometres to the southeast have displaced 23,000 people and were the worst of a dozen wildfires burning in the state.