The Latest: Some weren't told to go as deadly fire neared

AP News
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Posted: Sep 18, 2015 3:02 PM

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. (AP) — The latest on wildfires raging in drought-stricken California (all times local):

11:45 a.m.

The death toll in California's destructive wildfires is raising questions about whether more could have been done to save lives.

Five people were killed when a pair of wildfires tore through Northern California this week. Two men died after rejecting orders to evacuate. Two others declined entreaties from friends and family to leave, until it was too late. Others say they never even received notice that one of California's most destructive fires was fast approaching and they should leave immediately.

Authorities defended their rescue attempts, saying they did all they could to reach people.

The Valley Fire in Lake County killed three. The Lake County Sheriff's Office has declined repeated calls and emails seeking comment on when evacuation orders were given and how.

The Butte Fire in Calaveras and Amador counties killed two, with both men ignoring mandatory evacuation orders.

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11:05 a.m.

Insurance officials say it's too early to estimate the costs of damage from two major Northern California wildfires that have killed at least five people and destroyed hundreds of homes.

Department of Insurance spokeswoman Nancy Kincaid said Friday that many insurers are just getting in to look at properties and beginning to process claims.

She says she wants to meet with those affected to tell them about available resources. The insurance commissioner says she has seen people on the news saying they are uninsured and wants them to know that basic fire policies are available to everyone.

A team will go door to door Tuesday to alert homeowners to unscrupulous contractors. There also will be a large police presence in the Lake County and Sierra Nevada foothills areas to ward off scammers.

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7:50 a.m.

At least one person remains missing in the massive fire in Northern California, about 100 miles north of San Francisco, which has left three people dead.

Authorities have not released that person's name. On Thursday, Lacey Null said her father, 56-year-old Edwin Null, was found safe. She had thought he was in the fire zone near Middletown.

She said the family had feared the worst until he was found at the home of a friend Thursday night.

Crews have made progress in the battle against that fire, which has charred about 115 square miles. Containment was up to 40 percent Friday. The fire in Lake County has destroyed an estimated 585 homes and hundreds of other structures have burned.

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7:10 a.m.

Fire crews gained ground on a fire in Amador and Calaveras counties that has burned 110 square miles. It was 60 percent contained Friday after destroying 252 homes and leaving at least two people dead.

Calaveras County coroner Kevin Raggio said two bodies were found inside homes destroyed in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

The Sacramento Bee reports that one was identified as 66-year-old Mark McCloud, who was found Tuesday in the Mountain Ranch area. Raggio said 82-year-old Owen Goldsmith was found in his home, also in Mountain Ranch.

Sgt. Anthony Eberhardt of the Calaveras County Sheriff's Office said both lived in areas where mandatory evacuation calls were issued. More than 4,300 firefighters are on the frontlines fighting the stubborn blaze.

A separate Northern California wildfire is blamed for three more deaths.