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'Soulless' people using California fires to loot as 250,000 under evacuation orders
24 August 2020, 09:05
People looting in communities under evacuation orders amid huge wildfires in California are "absolutely soulless," a US district attorney has said as firefighters hunker down for worse weather conditions to arrive.
Jeff Rosell, the chief county district attorney for Santa Cruz, made the comments over the weekend as country Sheriff Jim Hart revealed eight people had been arrested or cited for stealing during the chaos.
He said 100 officers were patrolling the area and would continue to arrest anyone unauthorised to be in the evacuation zone as fires rip through the area.
One of the victims included a fire commander, whose personal items were stolen from his vehicle while he was coordinating efforts on Saturday.
Among the stolen items was his wallet, which later led to his bank account being "drained," Chief Mark Brunton, a battalion chief for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said.
Firefighters are currently in a race against time to dig breaks and prepare for high winds and lightning strikes that could worsen three huge wildfires spreading across the parched Northern California landscape, where nearly 250,000 people are under evacuation orders and warnings.
Authorities in the Santa Cruz Mountains announced on Sunday that a 70-year-old man had died in a remote area of Last Chance after he was reported missing.
Police had to use a helicopter to reach the area where his body was found in an area with a line of 40 off-the-grid homes at the end of a dirt road north of Santa Cruz.
Five people have now died and 845 buildings have been destroyed in the most destructive of the fires, which are among some of the largest in the state's history, burning more than 500 square miles.
More than 500 fires have burned throughout California since 15 August, ripping through 1.2 million acres of land (1,875 square miles), and have prompted US President Donald Trump to declare a major disaster.