The death toll from the California wildfires has been reduced by one, as what was initially thought to be a human corpse was in fact a burned anatomical skeleton used for educational purposes.
At least nine people have been killed in the North Complex Fire currently raging north of Sacramento.
Officials picking through the rubble on Thursday announced the death toll stood at 10, but on Friday evening amended it to nine.
They explained police had wrongly identified a charred skeleton model as belonging to a human.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said the model “very much looked like an authentic set of human remains,” but testing found it was made of resin.
The Berry Creek community has been devastated by the fire which broke out several days ago but worsened in strong winds. It’s the state’s deadliest blaze of the year so far.
On Friday it was announced that one of the nine confirmed victims was 16-year-old Josiah Williams, who tried to leave the area in his car but didn’t make it.
“He was supposed to leave when his brother did, but he didn’t,” his aunt Bobbie Zedaker told the Sacramento Bee.
“I have no idea why.”
A couple also trying to flee in their car were killed as well. Millicent Catarancuic and Philip Rubel have been officially named among the dead.
“They were in two cars,” nephew Zygy Roe-Zurz said.
“They made a late run for it and didn’t make it. The fire and heat must have been so intense.”
The Butte County Sheriff’s Office has received reports involving 151 individuals who are either missing or need a welfare check at the request of family members.
As of Friday afternoon, Butte County officials successfully located 123 of those individuals, leaving more than 20 still unaccounted for.
The sheriff’s office has announced it will deploy more resources next week to search for missing victims of the fire.
The North Complex Fire has burned a total of 252,173 acres and is at 21% containment, according to Steve Kaufmann, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The West Zone portion of the North Complex Fire, which primarily covers Butte County, is at 70,500 acres burned and only at 5% containment.
Meanwhile further north in Oregon flames are also tearing through communities after downed power lines caught fire.
Tens of thousands of people have had to evacuate and dozens are missing, with at least four confirmed dead.
Apocalyptic photos and videos of the scene show an eerie landscape with bright red skies and thick smoke.
Some fires are believed to have started when a gender-reveal party went horribly wrong.
Fires are worsening each year across the US due to the effects of climate change.