GRIDLEY, Calif. - A Northern California wildfire that destroyed a foothill hamlet has become the state’s deadliest blaze of the year with 10 people confirmed dead — and the toll could climb as searchers look for 16 missing people.
Authorities say the North Complex fire that exploded in wind-driven flames earlier in the week is advancing more slowly Friday after the winds eased and smoke from the blaze shaded the area and lowered the temperature, allowing firefighters to make progress.
That was a change from the hot weather and gusty winds that two days earlier sent flames exploding through foothills northeast of San Francisco, destroying at least 2,000 buildings.
Butte County sheriff's investigators found seven bodies on Thursday, a day after three other victims were discovered. Among those unaccounted for are grandparents who told their son they were going to try to escape the flames by finding shelter in a pond.
The weeks-old fire was about 50% contained when winds drove it into explosive growth on Tuesday. Some 2,000 homes and other buildings officials have burned.
The fire is among five this year that have set records for the most land ever burned, including a blaze that broke the mark Thursday as the largest ever.