Sep 24, 2015 12:16 AM

Hundreds of millions in damage estimated in California fire

The Associated Press

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. (AP) Future rebuilding efforts after the hundreds of millions of dollars in destruction caused by a wildfire burning north of San Francisco will be an opportunity to improve poor, sparsely populated Lake County, California officials said.

"We can and we will make this better. I've seen it time and time again, disaster after disaster," said Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services.

Building more modern roads and adding sewage systems to areas that don't have them will be included in recovery plans, officials said.

While plans to rebuild are in many people's minds, fire crews are still battling the blaze. On Wednesday, another body was found in the rubble in Lake County, bringing the death toll to six from that blaze and another in Northern California two of the state's more destructive wildfires in recent memory. Also on Wednesday, authorities said a man's suicide was involved in the start of a separate fire that destroyed 12 homes south of San Francisco.

The Lake County fire destroyed 1,900 structures, including 1,238 homes, and left 3,000 people homeless, Ghilarducci said. It has charred 118 square miles.

Lake County sheriff's officials said they discovered the remains in the hard-hit Cobb area and believe they belong to Robert Taylor Fletcher, 66, who was last seen Sept. 16. His home was destroyed. The coroner has not confirmed the identity.

Officials said Robert Litchman, 61, from the Seigler Canyon area, was still missing. Three other people have been found dead in the rubble of the Lake County blaze.

Two bodies were found inside homes destroyed in another wildfire about 170 miles southeast, in the Sierra Nevada foothills. That fire has charred 110 square miles.

The two fires continue burning, but cooler weather and rain have helped firefighters gain ground, and both are more than 80 percent contained.

Meanwhile, authorities in Monterey County said a man's suicide was involved in the start of a wildfire that destroyed 12 homes and eight small buildings and prompted evacuations near the small town of Jamesburg, 140 miles south of San Francisco.

Firefighters found the body near the fire's ignition point, the Monterey County Sheriff's Department said.

The sheriff's department declined to release the cause of death or other details on how the fire started Saturday, saying an investigation continues. The man's identity wasn't disclosed.

That fire has burned a little more than a square mile since it started about 30 miles east of the coastal city of Monterey. It's 81 percent contained, firefighters said.


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