Los Angeles: The death toll from the monster wildfires raging in northern California has risen to five with the discovery of two new victims, authorities have said.
Both were killed in the so-called Valley fire, one of two giant blazes that have destroyed more than 800 homes and displaced thousands in the drought-stricken state.
Police located their remains while searching the burn zone with sniffer dogs on Wednesday morning.
“Human remains were located in the Hidden Valley area and the Anderson Springs area,” Steven Brooks, spokesman for the sheriff of Lake County, said yesterday in a statement.
The remains are presumed to be those of Bruce Beven Burns, reported missing on Tuesday, and Leonard Neft who has been missing since Monday.
“Identification of the decedents is being withheld until positive identification can be made,” the statement added.
Three people were previously known to have died in the Valley and Butte wildfires. All were found in their homes, two in the Sierra Nevada Foothills and a third in Lake County.
Some 15,000 people are still unable to return to their homes, as 13,000 firefighters battle blazes across the state, according to Lynnette Round, a spokeswoman with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire).
The Valley fire, described as one of the most destructive to have hit the western United States, has charred more than 70,000 acres (28,000 hectares) — an area almost three times the size of Paris.
Authorities are still investigating what could have triggered the blaze, with one possible explanation being a falling tree that took down a power line, CalFire’s spokeswoman said.
Eight major fires are currently burning in California, with close to 30 ablaze across the country including in the states of Washington, Oregon, Utah, Montana and Florida.