California wildfire rescuers searching for dead as toll rises to 25

Sun rises over decimated Malibu as rescuers prepare for a grim day of searching for the dead, as toll rises to 25 and California wildfires continue to rage

  • 23 people have been killed in Northern California’s Camp Fire, two killed in Southern California’s Woolsey Fire
  • Most of the bodies have been discovered in the town of Paradise, making Camp Fire the third deadliest in CA
  • It’s burned through 109,000 acres, destroyed 6,713 buildings – most of them homes – and is 25% contained
  • The Camp Fire blaze’s death toll is only feared to rise with at least 110 missing persons reports still pending 
  • 4 search and recovery teams combing through the remains of Paradise and a mobile DNA lab was dispatched 
  • Santa Ana winds that are fueling the fires are expected to gain strength again Sunday, last through Monday 

California rescuers are preparing for a grim day of searching for the dead as fires continue to rage on opposite ends of the state. 

As of Sunday the death toll in the California wildfires has risen to 25, with 23 found dead in Northern California’s Camp Fire and two killed in Southern California’s Woolsey Fire. 

Most of the bodies have been discovered in the town of Paradise, making Camp Fire the third deadliest fire in California history as well as the most destructive fire the state has ever seen. 

The sun rises over the Pacific Ocean as the Woolsey Fire continues to burn in Malibu, California on Sunday morning 

California rescuers are preparing for a grim day of searching for the dead as fires continue to rage on opposite ends of the state. Pictured is a fallen power line on top of a burnt out vehicle on the side of the road in Paradise on Saturday 

As of Sunday the death toll in the California wildfires has risen to 25, with 23 found dead in Northern California’s Camp Fire and two killed in Southern California’s Woolsey Fire. Pictured is all that remains of a home destroyed in Paradise 

Most of the bodies have been discovered in the town of Paradise (pictured), making Camp Fire the third deadliest fire in California history as well as the most destructive fire the state has ever seen

CalFire firefighter Scott Wit surveys burnt out vehicles near a fallen power line on the side of the road in Paradise on Saturday

Vehicles and a home are in ruins, one of at least 20 homes that were lost on Windermere Drive in Malibu on Saturday 

The Camp Fire has already burned through 109,000 acres and destroyed 6,713 buildings – most of them homes. As of Sunday morning, it was 25 percent contained. 

Woolsey has spread to 83,275 acres and was 5 percent contained as of Saturday night. Hill Fire has burned through 4,531 acres and is 65 percent contained.  

The Camp Fire blaze’s death toll is only feared to rise with at least 110 missing persons reports still pending with the Butte County Sheriff’s Office.

Authorities have four coroner search and recovery teams combing through the remains of Paradise, which was almost completely destroyed when a fire raged through the town on Thursday and Friday.

The Department of Justice mobile DNA lab has been dispatched to the area to help identify remains by comparing them to genetic samples from family members. The California State Chico anthropology team has also been called in to assist.

‘In some cases, the only remains we are able to recover are bones or bone fragments,’ said Butte County Sheriff Kory L Honea.  

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    The Camp Fire burns along a ridgetop near Big Bend on Saturday. Crews working to contain the blaze overnight faced deteriorating weather conditions as winds picked up and humidity dropped

    Yuba and Butte County Sheriff deputies carry a body bag with a deceased victim during the Camp fire in Paradise, California

    Deputies carry a body bag with a deceased victim who perished during the Camp Fire in Paradise, California

    A Butte County Sheriff deputy places yellow tape at the scene where human remains were found during the Camp Fire

    Sheriff’s deputies recover the remains of Camp Fire victims on Saturday in Paradise, California

    Yuba and Butte County sherriff deputies collect the human remains of victim of the Camp Fire on Saturday in Paradise. Fueled by high winds and low humidity, the rapidly spreading Camp Fire ripped through the town of Paradise

    Yuba and Butte County Sheriff deputies retrieve remains of a deceased victim from a home during the Camp Fire in Paradise

    Yuba County Sheriff officers carry a body away from a burned residence in Paradise, California on Saturday

    The Camp Fire is seen racing through Paradise on Thursday. Residents had little to no notice of the fire which moved rapidly

    Smoke from the Camp Fire blankets Northern California in this satellite image from 10.10pm EST on Saturday. Paradise, which was incinerated in the fire, is to the east of Chico on the map

    The map above shows the three major fires currently alight burning in California, two in the south and one in the north

    The Camp Fire is seen incinerating the Northern California town of Paradise on Thursday, as it raced through the town with little notice


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      ‘This weighs heavy on all of us,’ Honea said. ‘Myself and especially those staff members who are out there doing what is important work but certainly difficult work.’ 

      California fire stats 

      As of 8pm local time on Saturday 

      NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

      Camp Fire

      • Fatalities: 23
      • Injuries: 3
      • Acres: 105,000
      • Homes destroyed: 6,453
      • Containment: 20%
      • Personnel working: 4,050 

      SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

      Woolsey Fire:

      • Fatalities: 2  
      • Acres:83,275
      • Homes destroyed: 177
      • Containment: 5%
      • Personnel working: 3,242 

      Hill Fire

      • Fatalities: 0 
      • Acres: 4,531
      • Homes destroyed: None
      • Containment: 65%

      Sheriff Honea said that his department had received 508 calls for service from friends and family trying to locate missing loved ones, though he added that some of the calls were duplicates for the same person.

      Of those, Honea said that 110 missing persons requests remained pending on Saturday. 

      Meanwhile in Southern California, two casualties were reported on Friday as well.

      Police say the two bodies were discovered ‘severely burned inside of a stopped vehicle’ on a long driveway in a sparsely populated stretch of Mulholland Highway in Malibu on Saturday, after the Woolsey Fire tore through the area, forcing half a million people to evacuate.

      Los Angeles County sheriff’s Chief John Benedict declined to offer additional details about the fatalities pending an official investigation. 

      The Santa Ana winds that have been fueling this week’s blaze calmed on Saturday, allowing 200,000 people to return to their Los Angeles homes.

      Favorable overnight weather conditions also allowed crews to reinforce containment lines. 

      But Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said the lull was only temporary and told firefighters and residents to ‘stay vigilant’. 

      Gusts on Sunday could reach as high as 30 to 50 mph and are expected to linger through Monday morning, according to CNN.   

      ‘We know Mother Nature’s gonna turn her fan back on and the winds are going to start blowing,’ Lorenzen said on Saturday.   

      On Saturday evening, President Donald Trump issued condolences to the victims – 15 hours after threatening to cut off federal funds if state officials did not address ‘gross mismanagement of the forests’.

      ‘Our hearts are with those fighting the fires, the 52,000 who have evacuated, and the families of the 11 who have died. The destruction is catastrophic. God Bless them all,’ Trump wrote.

      At around 2am ET, while traveling in Paris, Trump had previously written: 

       

      ‘There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!’

      Earlier on Saturday the Los Angeles Times reported that evacuees were being turned away from overflowing shelters while firefighters continued their tireless efforts to bring the infernos under control.

      Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said the ‘extreme, tough fire conditions’ have been worse than the emergency crews ‘have never seen in their life’, while residents describe the situation as ‘hell’. 

      Communities across Ventura and Los Angeles counties including the city of Malibu, Calabasas and the Topanga Canyon area were placed under evacuation orders on Friday as the Woolsey and Hill fires razed countless buildings and homes to the ground. 

      More than 300,000 people have evacuated across the state, including 170,000 in the Los Angeles area.  

      World’s largest tanker plane arrives to fight Camp Fire

      A Boeing 747-400 SuperTanker (above) has been dispatched to California to help fight the massive widlfires

      The Global SuperTanker, a Boeing 747 modified for fire suppression drops, has arrived in Northern California to fight the Camp Fire.

      The privately-owned SuperTanker arrived in Sacramento on Friday and has flown at least five sorties over the Camp Fire since then, according to flight records. 

      The SuperTanker has almost twice the capacity of the next largest aerial tanker. It can deliver 19,200 gallons in one drop or segmented drops and has a top speed of 600mph.

      The tanker system is approved for retardant, gel, foam and water drops or the combination of any two of these agents. G

      Ground servicing for another sortie takes approximately 30-35 minutes.

      The SuperTanker’s most recent fire suppression sortie over the Camp Fire on Saturday is seen in the tracking map above

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        Satellite images from 10.10pm EST on Saturday show the Woolsey and Hill Fires burning near Malibu

        A firefighting plane dumps retardant on Parkmor Street in Malibu on Saturday as the area battles the Woolsey and Hill Fires

        Malibu: A vintage car sits in a parking lot off Pacific Coast Highway as flames from the Woolsey Fire back up a nearby hillside

        The ruins of a classic Camaro car stands in front of one of at least 20 homes destroyed just on Windermere Drive in the Point Dume area of Malibu on Saturday. Known as the Woolsey Fire, it has consumed thousands of acres

        Firefighters race to rescue a vintage Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 by pushing it out of the garage of a burning Malibu home

        A mansion destroyed by the Woolsey Fire in Malibu, California, on Friday. Fires across California fueled by very dry conditions and warm strong Santa Ana winds have destroyed thousands of homes, caused 23 fatalities and scorched over 100,000 acres

        Capt. Adrian Murrieta with the Los Angeles County Fire Dept., hoses down hot spots on a wildfire-ravaged home Saturday in Malibu. Scores of houses from ranch homes to celebrities’ mansions burned in a pair of wildfires

        Horses are tied up at lifeguard stations on Zuma Beach, brought there by their owners to escape the Woolsey Fire, in Malibu, California on Saturday before being transported to a facility outside the fire zone

        Thousands of people packed up in and fled from Malibu and surrounding areas on Friday as the fire approached. Smoke is seen rising from a gridlocked Pacific Coast Highway in the photo above posted to Twitter by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office

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          More than 600 members of law enforcement canvassed the area through Friday night, pounding on doors to tell a quarter of a million residents to leave their homes as the fires closed in, covering more nearly 75,000 acres as of Saturday morning.   

          Meteorologists warn that strengthening westward winds could push the blaze toward the state capital in Sacramento.  

          The larger of the two southern blazes, the Woolsey Fire, ignited near Rocketdyne at around 2pm local time Thursday, quickly spreading southwest toward Newbury Park and Thousand Oaks, the community still reeling from a mass shooting in a bar on Wednesday night. 

          The southern blazes have destroyed many homes and forced thousands to flee for their lives on short notice – including many celebrities who live in the wealthy coastal enclaves under threat.

          During a Friday afternoon news conference, Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby urged people to obey evacuation orders, saying: ‘I can only imagine the impact of being asked to leave your home. But we’re doing it for your safety.’

          One resident of Westlake Village in Los Angeles County, Arita Kronska, described the pain of leaving the home she’s lived in for three decades while knowing that it may not still be standing when she returns.  

          ‘I’ve lived here since 1988,’ the 62-year-old told the Los Angeles Times outside a temporary shelter in Thousand Oaks. ‘This is the first time I’ve seen a fire like this.’

          Students shelter in the main dinning area on campus at Pepperdine as wildfires in the area burn in the Malibu area on Friday

          Pepperdine students shelter in place in the main dinning area on campus as wildfires in the area burn in the Malibu area Friday

          Doug Thomas and his dog Hanna take a nap Friday while they await word if they can return to there Malibu Lake home that is being threatened by the Woolsey Fire. Some quarter million are under evacuation orders throughout California

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            She said the streets were eerily quiet as she drove through her neighborhood Friday morning, evacuating with only her dog, Yoda, and her passport. 

            OFFICIAL SOURCES FOR FIRE UPDATES

            Ventura County – Hill and Woolsey fires:

            • Ventura County Emergency Services 
            • Ventura County Fire Department Public Information Office 
            • Ventura County Fire Department

            Los Angeles County – Woolsey Fire:

            • LA County Government 
            • LA County Fire Department Air Operations –
            • LA County Fire Department

            Butte County – Camp Fire: 

            • Camp Fire Incident Report
            • Butte County Fire Department 

            Statewide:

            • CAL FIRE 
            • Office of Emergency Services 

            ‘Nobody was there anymore,’ she said. ‘It was a very strange feeling. No people. No driving. Like in those movies about the apocalypse.’

            Kronska took shelter at the Thousand Oaks Teen Center, which had served as a meeting point for family members to reunite with their loved ones after a mass shooting at a country bar that left 12 dead just 30 hours earlier.  

            Judy Goodman sought refuge at the center around the same time after she was awoken by a large crash in her living room when a tree crashed through the roof of her home in Westlake Hills. 

            Minutes later police were at her door to tell her to leave as the fire was moving into the area. 

            ‘It’s just one thing after another,’ she told the LA Times. ‘I was crying all day yesterday because of the shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill, and now this happens.’ 

            In Northern California, investigators suspect the Camp Fire was ignited by a faulty PG&E power line on Thursday morning.

            Abandoned, charred vehicles cluttered the main thoroughfare in Paradise on Friday, evidence of the panicked evacuation a day earlier. 

            Most of its buildings are in ruin, entire neighborhoods are leveled and the business district has been wiped out.

            In a single day, this Sierra Nevada foothill town of 27,000 founded in the 1800s was largely incinerated by flames that moved so fast there was nothing firefighters could do.  

            President Donald Trump on Friday evening approved an emergency declaration issuing federal funds to support the battle against the Camp Fire and Southern California’s Hill and Woolsey Fires. 

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              The Woolsey Hill fire crossed the Pacific Coast Highway overnight Friday and is making its way up the California coast 

              A house burns during the Woolsey Fire on Friday night in Malibu, California. About 75,000 homes have been evacuated in Los Angeles and Ventura counties due to two fires in the region

              A fire truck passes by the Woolsey Fire burning a mansion in Malibu Friday night in a blaze that has killed at least nine people

              Park Billow, 27, sprays water on the hot spots in his backyard as the Woolsey Fire burns in Malibu on Friday

              Firefighters battle the Woolsey Fire as it consumes and destroys a Malibu home late on Friday evening, where entire neighborhoods have been leveled 

              Firefighters use a deck gun on a fire engine to try and keep flames from spreading further along Kanan Dume Road on Friday

              An owl sits on the beach in Malibu as the Woolsey Fire approaches on Friday, casting an orange glow on the skyline

               

              Law enforcement controls traffic along Pacific Coast Highway as the Woolsey Fire advances toward the ocean in Malibu

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                In Southern California, firefighters have saved thousands of homes despite working in ‘extreme, tough fire conditions that they said they have never seen in their life’, Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said.

                Those vicious conditions on Friday night gave way to a calm Saturday, with winds reduced to breezes.

                No new growth was reported on the larger of the two fires, the Woolsey Fire, which stands at 109 square miles, and firefighters now have the blaze five per cent contained.

                Progress also came against the smaller fire, prompting Ventura County officials to allow people in a handful of communities to return to their homes.

                Hundreds of thousands across the region remain under evacuation orders, and could stay that way for days as winds pick up again. 

                Fire burned in famously ritzy coastal spots like Malibu, where Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian West, Guillermo del Toro and Martin Sheen were among those forced out of their homes amid a citywide evacuation order.

                ‘It was way too big a firestorm,’ said Lani Netter, whose Malibu home was spared while her neighbour’s burned.

                ‘We had tremendous, demonic winds is the only way I can put it.’

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                  Slide to view: A Jack in the Box fast food restaurant in Paradise was one of the more than 6,700 buildings destroyed

                  A Cal Fire firefighter sprays water on a home next to a burning home as the Camp Fire moves through Magalia, California

                  A rescued donkey stands tied to a road sign on the side of the road after the Camp Fire moved through the area on Friday

                  Cal Fire Captain Steve Millosovich carries a cage of cats found in the road after the Camp Fire moved through on Friday

                  Businesses continue to burn under a darkened smokey sky in Paradise, north of Sacramento, Friday evening

                  Abandoned vehicles sit at a car lot in Paradise, north of Sacramento, California on Friday after the Camp Fire ravaged the area

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                    In Northern California, when Paradise was evacuated, the order set off a desperate exodus in which many motorists got stuck in gridlocked traffic and abandoned their vehicles to flee on foot. 

                    People reported seeing much of the Northern California community of Paradise go up in flames, including homes, supermarkets, businesses, restaurants, schools and a retirement center. 

                    ‘There was really no firefight involved,’ said Capt Scott McLean of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, explaining that crews gave up attacking the flames and instead helped people evacuate.  

                    The causes of all three fires are under investigation. The Camp Fire began at 6.29am on Friday, while in the south the Hill and Woolsey Fires began on Friday afternoon. 

                    Pacific Gas & Electric Company says it will cooperate with any investigations stemming from the Camp Fire.

                    The utility told state regulators on Thursday that it experienced a problem on an electrical transmission line near the site of the blaze minutes before the fire broke out. The company said it later observed damage to a transmission tower on the line.

                    PG&E spokeswoman Lynsey Paulo said Friday the information was preliminary and stressed that the cause of the fire has not been determined. 

                    Equine veterinarian Jesse Jellison carries an injured goose to a waiting transport during the Camp Fire in Paradise on Saturday

                    A burned vehicle is seen at the remains of a residence after the Camp fire tore through the area in Paradise on Saturday

                    A deer looks on from a burned residence after the Camp Fire tore through the area in Paradise, California on Saturday

                    The wildfires come unusually late in the season for California, after a lack of fall rain storms left the region unseasonably dry. 

                    The Southern California fires are flanking the city of Thousand Oaks, threatening the beleaguered community as it tries to mend itself after a gunman stormed a bar holding ‘College Night’ on Wednesday, killing 12 people and himself. 

                    ‘Just 48 hours ago our city experienced tragedy that had national implications,’ Thousand Oaks Mayor Andy Fox said at a press conference on Friday night. 

                    He pointed out that many of those affected by the shooting had probably been forced to evacuate their homes, and noted that the loss of property was never comparable to the loss of life.

                    ‘Those lives will never be recovered. Tonight we are talking about a serious fire situation, but thankfully we have not lost a single life,’ the mayor said.

                    Smoke from the Hill Fire could be seen over the area where a vigil was held last night for the victims of the shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill less than 24 hours earlier. 

                    The Thousand Oaks Teen Center that was used as meeting point after the massacre has now been transformed into a shelter from the fire. 

                    In Agoura Hills, the Woolsey Fire destroyed Paramount Ranch, the set of HBO’s Westworld and many other western films and shows. 

                    HBO said that no cast or crew were at the Paramount Ranch location when it burned down.

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                      In Southern California, the fire has spread toward the Pacific, forcing the total evacuation of Malibu. Caitlyn Jenner’s home was destroyed by the flames, and other celebrity homes under fire threat are seen on the map above

                      Disney CEO Bob Iger tweeted this view of the Woolsey Fire from the company’s headquarters in Burbank, California

                      The church from The Western Town studio at Paramount Ranch is unscathed after the set was almost completely destroyed

                      Paramount Ranch, where a number of Hollywood westerns have been filmed, is seen after it was decimated by a wildfire


                      Slide to view: A scene from HBO’s Westworld (left) is seen alongside the fire-devastated movie lot on Friday (right)

                      Among the films that have been shot at the ranch are Caught in the Draft with Bob Hope, The Lake House with Sandra Bullock, and TV shows including The Mentalist, Weeds and Quickdraw.

                      Dr Quinn Medicine Woman was also shot there from 1992 to 1997.

                      Celebrities including Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, Rainn Wilson, and Alyssa Milano have been forced to evacuate as the flames surrounded their homes.

                      West’s offices in Calabasas also had to be evacuated after the raging wildfire encroached on the area.

                      Around the same time reports emerged that Caitlyn Jenner’s 3,500 square foot, 4-bedroom pad overlooking the Malibu beach was destroyed by fierce flames from the same blaze. 


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                      Meanwhile, Lady Gaga’s mansion nearby in Malibu was seen surrounded by a blanket of thick smoke as the wildfire overtook the beachside city before moving toward Oxnard.

                      Will Smith posted a video to his Instagram story expressing worry that his own home would be hit by the flames as the path of destruction continues. 

                      Actor Charlie Sheen posted a message on Twitter on Friday evening saying that he had not heard from his parents, Martin and Janet Sheen, since they fled Malibu for a staging area at Zuma Beach. A TV news crew later found Martin Sheen and his wife safe on the beach. 

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                        Nearly 20,000 acres have been scorched by the twin wildfires tearing across Ventura and Los Angeles counties

                        The Woolsey Fire burns a home near Malibu Lake in Malibu on Friday. The fire had covered 70,000 acres by Saturday

                        A helicopter dispenses water over flames burning a portion of Griffith Park in Los Angeles on Friday afternoon. Staff at the Los Angeles Zoo, which is located in the park, are preparing animals to be evacuated as the Woolsey Fire approaches

                        Large plumes of smoke from a fast moving wildfire are seen in the background as volunteers care for evacuated horses at The Pierce College Equine Center where evacuees are bringing their large and small animals in the Woodland Hills section of LA

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                          On Saturday, more firefighters headed to Paradise in Northern California, with wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour expected through Monday, raising the risk of conditions similar to those when the fire started Thursday, said Alex Hoon with the National Weather Service.

                          The air still clogged with smoke, residents who stayed behind to try to save their property or who managed to get back to their neighborhoods found cars incinerated and homes reduced to rubble.

                          People sidestepped metal that melted off cars and Jet-Skis and donned masks as they surveyed ravaged neighborhoods despite an evacuation order for all of Paradise, a town of 27,000 founded in the 1800s. Some cried when they saw nothing was left.

                          Jan MacGregor, 81, got back to his small two-bedroom home in Paradise with the help of his firefighter grandson. He found his home leveled – a large metal safe and pipe work from his septic system the only recognizable traces. The safe was punctured with bullet holes from guns inside that went off in the scorching heat.

                          He has lived in Paradise for nearly 80 years, moving there in 1939 when he said the town had just 3,000 people and was nicknamed Poverty Ridge. The fire was not a complete surprise, he said.

                          ‘We knew Paradise was a prime target for forest fire over the years,’ he said. ‘We’ve had ’em come right up to the city limits – oh yeah – but nothing like this,’ he said.

                          MacGregor said he probably would not rebuild: ‘I have nothing here to go back to.’

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                            Homes and other buildings in Paradise were still burning, and fire crews were trying to extinguish those blazes, said Scott McLean, a captain with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Officials warned firefighters to wear their helmets and be careful of falling trees.

                            Drought, warmer weather attributed to climate change and home construction deeper into forests have led to more destructive wildfire seasons that have been starting earlier and lasting longer.

                            California emerged from a five-year drought last year but has had a very dry 2018. Much of the northern two-thirds of the state, including where the fire is burning, is abnormally dry, according to a US government analysis.

                            Elinor ‘Jeannie’ Williams, 86, was not among the nine victims of the blaze but died as she waited to be airlifted from an evacuated hospital where she was being treated for a head injury.

                            She was dying, and the family expected to lose her in a few days, said her stepdaughter, Lisa. Still, her death has been hard on her 84-year-old father, Robert, who also may have lost his home, she said.

                            ‘He’s lost, he’s confused, he’s trying to hang in there,’ she said. ‘It’s hitting him hard. Everything is gone, including his wife.’ 

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