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Deadly California Fires Have Destroyed More Than 15,000 Structures, Taken 80 Lives

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Camp Fire
The Camp Fire in Northern California burns in this Nov. 8, 2018, satellite image from NASA

Firefighters have made progress in fighting California's major wildfires, but the path of destruction left behind will take a long time to rebuild.

By Sunday night, the Camp Fire raging in Northern California, now the most destructive and deadly in the state's history, had grown to 150,000 acres and was 65% contained. Seventy-seven people are confirmed dead. More than 1,200 people are still missing and unaccounted for, ABC News reports. The fire has destroyed more than 13,700 structures, including 10,364 homes and 418 commercial buildings. There are 14,500 structures threatened.

In Southern California, the Woolsey Fire in Los Angeles and Ventura counties was at 96,949 acres and 91% contained as of Sunday night. The largest of the fires to hit Southern California, it has destroyed 1,452 structures and damaged 337. It has resulted in three confirmed deaths.

The Woolsey Fire has now surpassed last year's Thomas Fire when it comes to homes and other buildings destroyed. The Thomas Fire destroyed 1,063 structures, the Ventura County Star reports.

Rain is expected Tuesday night in Northern California, a glimmer of hope for firefighters who have been battling the dry conditions and winds that help drive the spread of the fire. The rain should also help the air quality in the Bay Area. Northern California had the worst air quality in the world over the weekend. Winds have pushed smoke from the Camp Fire as far south as Fresno.

There are concerns that the rain, while it will help with conditions for fighting the fire, could also cause mudslides and debris flows. That risk was tragically illustrated after last year's fires in Southern California when rains caused flash floods and mudslides in Montecito and Santa Barbara. Twenty-one people died.

Officials are moving those whose homes in Paradise were destroyed by the Camp Fire and who have been living in tents to more secure shelters in anticipation of the rain, AccuWeather reports.

Anticipated rain is raising a similar mix of hope and concern in Southern California. Up to an inch of rain is expected to hit the burned areas of Southern California as early as Wednesday, which could cause debris flows and rock slides, the Star reports.

Damage from the Camp Fire in Northern California, the deadliest and most destructive fire in state history
Damage from the Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive fire in California's history

On Saturday, President Donald Trump visited California and toured the areas hit by the Camp Fire and then the Woolsey Fire along with Gov. Jerry Brown and Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom.

In areas that burned, rebuilding is often a given, particularly when it comes to housing, since demand is so great and California already has too little supply.

In Paradise, the town hardest hit by the Camp Fire, the fire destroyed about 90% of the homes and about 50% of the town's business district, Mayor Jody Jones told NPR. She said the town, home to about 26,000 people, plans to rebuild. The high school, hospital, library and town hall still stand.

Plans are already being made to rebuild Paramount Ranch in Los Angeles County, one of the landmarks that burned in the fire.

Rebuilding in those areas burned by the fires will take time, as past fires have shown. After last year's fires, cities worked to streamline and expedite rebuilding to take advantage of government aid and meet insurance timelines. But a year later, cities like Santa Rosa are still in the process of rebuilding even as discussions are ongoing about how city planning may change due to increased fire risk going forward.