The nation’s deadliest wildfires in a century continue to burn in California and the search for more bodies carries on. At least 56 people have been killed, and more than 300 are unaccounted for, a week after flames swept through both ends of the state.
The nearly 220-square-mile blaze in Northern California was 40 percent contained, the state fire agency said, and firefighters succeeded in slowing the flames’ advance toward populated areas, while Southern California has seen more than 153 square miles burned. Over 500 structures were destroyed in Malibu and nearby communities, and at least three deaths were reported.
Officials in Northern California put the number of homes lost there at nearly 8,800, and the sheriff said the task of recovering remains had become so vast that his office brought in 287 more searchers Wednesday, and added 22 cadaver dogs.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke joined California Gov. Jerry Brown on a visit to the scene on Wednesday, saying it was the worst fire devastation he had ever seen.
“Now is not the time to point fingers,” Zinke said. “There are lots of reasons these catastrophic fires are happening,” including higher temperatures, dead trees, and poor forest management.
Ballad Health announced this week the formation of a regional trauma and emergency care system that entails shifting Holston Valley Medical Center’s trauma center status from Level I to Level III, while still maintaining the Level I trauma center at Johnson City Medical Center.
The realignment is expected to expand access to services while increasing the effectiveness of care through specialization and better coordination, according to a Ballad, but will have no real impact on the the system as it is.
Of the 5,190 trauma patients treated at trauma centers in the Tri-Cities region last year, roughly 60 percent received care at JCMC. Now, an additional 10 percent of “major” trauma cases will also be treated in Johnson City. Once the regional trauma center model is fully implemented, Ballad expects the number of trauma patients treated at the Johnson City Level I trauma center to increase by 200 to 250 patients annually.
Local author Scott Pratt died Sunday, apparently in a diving accident in the Carribbean vacation destination Bonaire, just five months after his wife, a well-known dance instructor, died after a long battle with cancer.
Pratt started his writing career in 2008 after working as an attorney and journalist who covered the court system for the Johnson City Press in the 1980s and later worked for the Kingsport Times News. Pratt’s books have sold more than 3 million copies, with some of the stories based on crimes he covered here in East Tennessee.
His last social media post was a photo of the sunset off the coast of Bonaire.