Authorities searched on Monday for more than 200 people unaccounted for in one of the wildfires rampaging through parts of California, voicing concern about a possible rising death toll, as gusty, dry winds spurred the spreading flames.
The raging blaze in northern California known as the Camp Fire, the state's most destructive on record, had left at least 228 people missing as of early Monday, according to Kory Honea, sheriff of Butte County, site of the fire. That fire and one in southern California called the Woolsey Fire have killed at least 31 people.
The blazes left behind scenes of utter ruin, with homes and businesses reduced to charred wreckage and the winds also spreading large amounts of ash.
Both fires have been whipped up by hot dry winds. Winds of up to 40 miles per hour (64 km per hour) were expected to continue in southern California through Tuesday, heightening the risk of fresh blazes ignited by scattered embers, while the winds were forecast to begin diminishing later on Monday at the site of the Camp Fire. The wildfires flared in two new locations on Monday morning in southern California, officials said.
The fires have displaced more than 224,000 people, officials said. About 8,000 firefighters using fire fighting equipment including helicopters and air tankers were battling the flames, with assistance coming from out of state.
The Camp Fire, 40 miles (60 km) north of Sacramento, burned down more than 6,700 homes and businesses in the town of Paradise, more structures than any other wildfire recorded in California.
The fire had scorched more than 113,000 acres (45,729 hectares) and was 25 percent contained, officials said on Monday. Its death toll of 29 equals that of the Griffith Park Fire in 1933, the deadliest wildfire on record in California.
The blaze has probably caused between $2 billion and $4 billion in insured property damage, Morgan Stanley estimated in a report on Monday.