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California is still fighting fire as death toll exceeds 70

While hundreds are still missing, thousands are also scrambling for shelter as a northern California wildfire, which has killed at least 70 people continues to burn. Evacuees are finding refuge in places like a Walmart parking and an empty Sears building. Reporter Julia Sulek of San Jose Mercury News joins Hari Sreenivasan with the latest.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    The Camp Fire's devastation in and around Paradise, California means many thousands of people are homeless. Some are in shelters, others with family or friends and still, others are camped out in tents. For the latest, we turn now to Julia Sulek, a reporter for The San Jose Mercury News. She joins us via Skype from Chico, California. First tell us where you're standing.

  • JULIA SULEK:

    I'm standing in front of what they're calling a tent city on the edge of the Walmart parking lot here. People with no place to go have put up tents here. They've been well taken care of by by Walmart and lots of donors. But they're asking that the tent city be broken up and people go to shelters. The rain's coming next week and it's really cold out here.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And what kind of shelter capacity exists in the area? Is FEMA on the ground and what are they doing?

  • JULIA SULEK:

    FEMA is here. They have set up in an old Sears, empty Sears building. Lots of services for people with every disaster — the churches have opened their doors, the Elks club — there's enough room for people.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    There's quite a bit of focus this week now, later in the week now, about the source of this and whether or not PG&E, the utility company there, should be held responsible. What's the case against them?

  • JULIA SULEK:

    In previous fires, there certainly have been transformers that have blown and wind that have knocked them down and started fires. There's already been a lawsuit filed against PG&E. And another interesting thing, after the fires in Santa Rosa last year PG&E started a system where when they had these red flag warnings and the winds got over a certain speed and the humidity was low that they would turn off power and they actually were warning people that they were planning to turn off power in the Paradise area. They didn't. But of course, in the meantime as people were getting these notices, you know, locals were complaining, hey I got a you know freezer full of meat or you know do you really have to turn them off? So it was just an interesting dynamic of people not really realizing what was coming.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    In terms of the number of people who are still missing and unaccounted for, New Yorkers are familiar with it after 9/11 or I should say the country is familiar with it, but you see these bulletin boards and just these incredibly emotional pleas to try to find relatives.

  • JULIA SULEK:

    It's just it's so, so awful and I'm telling you I've been at these press conferences with the sheriff every night and he gets up with the grim news and it goes up by eight or ten every day. I spoke with a search and rescue guy who's up there with, you know, huge teams like 600 people, are actually looking for the remains of the dead. And it's horrifying in the scale of it. I mean, this is double, almost triple what former fires, you know, the most devastating fires ever. So I actually got a call last night from a man who was missing his mother and stepfather. I had been in touch with him earlier in the week and he told me that he got a call that his mother and stepfather were found dead in their home. And that's you know, what ten days later. It's just, just horrifying.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Julia Sulek, a reporter for The San Jose Mercury News joining us via Skype from Chico, California. Thanks so much.

  • JULIA SULEK:

    You're welcome, Hari.

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