We were told on Monday and Tuesday that there was one confirmed death from the swift-moving Valley Fire last week, and that was 72-year-old Barbara McWilliams. Yesterday we learned that a missing 69-year-old Lake County man, Leonard Neft, was also feared dead after his burned out car was discovered on a road out of the Anderson Springs area, where McWilliams perished. Today the Chron has confirmation that a second body has been discovered in the area, though its identity has not been confirmed.
Neft was a former reporter for the San Jose Mercury-News, and as the Sacramento Bee reports, his family believes he would have tried to contact them by now if he had made it out. The last they heard from him was around 8 p.m. Saturday after the fire had already moved into the area, saying he was going to try to get out.
KTVU reports that the remains of Bruce Burns may have been found on the recycling plant property where he lived. The Chron says that Burns' brother says he was contacted by Lake County sheriff's officials saying as much, but again there has been no official identification.
Further, there are still two other individuals who have not been identified publicly who remain missing and unaccounted for. If their remains are found, this would bring the death toll from the fire to five, ranking it among the most deadly fires in state history.
Locally, the only fire with a higher death toll would be the Oakland Hills or Tunnel Fire of October 1991 which claimed 25 lives and burned 2,900 structures.
The Valley Fire is now 35 percent contained and has burned nearly 74,000 acres.
Meanwhile, the Butte Fire in Amador and Calaveras Counties is 49 percent contained and at almost 71,000 acres. It has claimed two lives and has burned over 400 structures, including over 200 homes.