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California wildfires toll reaches 25

San Francisco: The death toll in the three raging wildfires in California has increased to 25, while the fires have caused destruction to numerous communities across large areas of the US state, the media reported on Sunday.

Fires continued to rage on both ends of California as of Saturday night, spreading with breakneck speed and displacing hundreds of thousands of people.

Of the 25 victims, 23 were killed in the Camp Fire, that is burning about 100 miles north of state capital Sacramento, while two bodies were found, both burned, in Malibu in a vehicle that had been in the path of the wildfire.

With the discovery of 14 more bodies on Saturday, the Camp Fire surpassed the death toll in last year’s Tubbs Fire, which killed 22 people and was the third-deadliest fire in the state’s history until now, The New York Times reported.

The deadliest, the Griffith Park fire in 1933, killed 29 people.

Many people in the area affected by the Camp Fire remained unaccounted for, and Sheriff Kory L. Honea of Butte County said on Saturday night that officials were expanding the team of people tasked with searching for bodies.

As of Saturday, it already had destroyed nearly 7,000 structures in and around the mountain town of Paradise, with officials saying the toll could further increase.

About 200,000 people were displaced by the Woolsey Fire, which began on Thursday afternoon near Simi Valley, as fire departments were responding to a second wildfire, called the Hill Fire, just west of Thousand Oaks, reports The Washington Post.

The Woolsey Fire proved to be explosive, expanding within 24 hours to some 35,000 acres.

It raced from the Conejo Valley to the Pacific Ocean, across Highway 101 and the Santa Monica mountains, at speeds that impressed veteran fire officials.

Saturday brought a break in the fierce winds that have whipped the three major wildfires but officials said the gusts will be back on Sunday and most evacuation orders remain in place.

Another round of Santa Ana winds was forecast to whip the area on Sunday through Tuesday, though it may be weaker than Friday’s, CNN said.

Fire officials estimate the number of people forced from their homes statewide is more than 300,000; in Los Angeles County it is 170,000.

Firefighters were struggling to put down the flames. The Camp Fire was 20 per cent contained and the Woolsey Fire just 5 per cent. The Hill Fire was 25 per cent contained.

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