Last updated at 6:20 p.m.
The gruesome ticker of human lives lost to the swarm of wildfires still burning in Northern California is likely to rise for many days to come, as it did in the last few hours.
Thursday morning began with an official death toll of 23, up from 21 late Wednesday, and by 3 p.m. this afternoon we have six more to add to that number, making the count now 29 though in this case the deaths are still being attributed to separate fire events in different counties. Nonetheless hundreds remain unaccounted for even as cell service is being restored to the hardest hit areas in Sonoma County.
[Update: As of Thursday evening, the death toll has climbed to 31, per the AP.
BREAKING: As death toll hits 31 from California wildfires, fire official says it is deadliest week of wildfires in state history.— The Associated Press (@AP) October 13, 2017
And while the officially tally of homes lost in the Tubbs Fire sat strangely low this morning, below 600, that has now jumped, with 2,834 homes burned according to the mayor of Santa Rosa, per KCRA. And that is for the city of Santa Rosa alone counts for the Nuns Fire and for homes in unincorporated Sonoma County still have not arrived.
As the Washington Post reports, "cadaver dogs are sniffing through the scorched rubble" in Santa Rosa, some of the missing may end up being found under similar circumstances to the tragic case of 69-year-old Linda Tunis, whose son found her remains after sifting through ashes at the Journey End mobile home park where she lived.
The Post notes that the death toll is now on par with what's considered the deadliest wildfire fire in California history, the Griffith Park Fire in Los Angeles in 1933 greater than the toll of 25 lives lost in the Oakland Hills firestorm.
At a news conference Thursday, Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano said, "We’ve found bodies that were almost completely intact; we’ve found bodies that are nothing more than ashes and bones." He added, "We will do everything in our power to locate all the missing people. I promise you we will handle the remains with care and get them to their loved ones."
400 people out of 1,000 originally reported missing remain unaccounted for, as the SF Chronicle reports.
The dead include at least 15 individuals in Sonoma County, two in Napa County (the elderly couple, the Rippeys), eight in Mendocino County (as a result of the Redwood Complex Fire), and four in Yuba County.
The last deadly wildfire to hit the Bay Area, the Valley Fire in Lake County in 2015, took the lives of four people.