PARADISE, Calif. — One person was found dead inside a burned-out house Friday after a wind-fueled wildfire swept through a rural community in the Sierra Nevada foothills, a rare human casualty among the hundreds of blazes that have tormented California for weeks.
Investigators believe the person died in the fire in the town of Concow, but they will conduct an autopsy on the burned body to confirm the cause of death, said Sgt. Steven Pelton, the county's deputy coroner-sheriff.
The town had been evacuated when the blaze approached early Tuesday, "but unfortunately not everyone chose to leave, and you cannot force them to," he said.
Fires in Butte County already have destroyed 50 homes in Concow and forced some 10,000 residents of the nearby town of Paradise to flee. The fires charred more than 76 square miles over the past two weeks and are about 55 percent contained.
Officials have said this unprecedented fire season, accompanied by drought and high temperatures, has seen the most fires burning at any one time in recorded California history. Most of the blazes began during a massive June 21 lightning storm that sparked 800 wildfires across Northern California.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered an additional 2,000 National Guard troops to help firefighting efforts around the state. President Bush plans a visit Thursday to survey the wildfires, which have burned more than 1,100 square miles and destroyed about 100 homes.
A letup in the wind aided firefighters in eastern Washington state battling a wildfire that erupted Thursday in a heavily wooded part of the Spokane Valley. It destroyed at least 13 houses and forced 200 residents to evacuate. No injuries had been reported.
The cause of the suburban Spokane fire, which grew to nearly 2 square miles, was not immediately known.
That fire and others prompted Gov. Christine Gregoire to declare a state of emergency across all of Washington on Friday.
That freed equipment, firefighters and funding for efforts to quench the flames.