California wildfire deaths reach 40; police have 300 missing persons reports

Smoke smolders from a wildfire-ravaged home Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017, in Sonoma, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (AP) — The death toll from wildfires burning in Northern California has reached 40.

Sonoma County announced Saturday evening that its coroner had confirmed two more deaths, taking the total in the county to 22 and the overall count to 40.

The toll had been 35 coming into Saturday, and it is expected to keep growing.

The fires were already the deadliest group of simultaneous blazes in California history.

No details were released on the newly announced dead, but it is likely the people were killed soon after the fires broke out nearly a week ago and their bodies were just discovered.

Authorities say they are sorting 300 unresolved missing persons reports, but they don't believe the death toll related to the wildfires in California will be anywhere near that number.

Napa County spokeswoman Molly Rattigan said investigators were trying to resolve 74 missing persons cases.

Sonoma County has about 220 unresolved missing person reports. Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Crum says most of the reports are from faraway friends and relatives, and the missing just hasn't reached out to them yet.

The fires that began on October 8 have claimed 35 lives and destroyed at least 5,700 homes and businesses. About 100,000 people are under evacuation orders.

By Saturday, the cluster of blazes was as wide as 100 miles.


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