By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – Authorities continued to search for victim’s remains as the most destructive wildfire in California history continued to blaze Wednesday with the death toll soaring to at least 56.
The Camp Fire in northern California has burned more than 9,000 structures, threatening in excess of 15,500 others as thousands of firefighters struggle to contain the 216-square-mile (350-square-mile) inferno. It is just 35 percent contained as it roars northeast of San Francisco.
At least 130 people remain missing, according to reports.
The fire has already laid waste to the town of Paradise where Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator Brock Long and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke toured the devastation earlier in the day.
Zinke said the fire is the worst he has ever seen, adding “the level of devastation” is devastating to the community.
“Now is really not the time to point fingers,” Zinke said. “There’s a lot of reasons why these catastrophic fires are happening, but certainly we’re very clever as Americans and we need to pull together and do everything within our power to make sure that these communities, like Whiskeytown, like Yosemite, like Paradise, don’t get devastated because it really is a devastating tragedy.”
Zinke’s comments follow his boss' Twitter screed last weekend against what U.S. President Donald Trump called California’s forest mismanagement, claiming “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor.
“Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!” he threatened.
Following backlash from firefighters, the president made a dramatic about-face saying in subsequent tweets that he spoke to California Gov. Jerry Brown “to let him know that we are with him, and the people of California, all the way!”
Officials and local residents in Paradise are now seeking to determine whether it is worth rebuilding, faced with the daunting task of a near-complete rebuild of the town.
The cause of the Camp Fire continues to be under investigation.