A WILDFIRE evacuee has hit out at the American government for failing to help in the aftermath of the California inferno – saying that “poor people are always ignored”.
Uninsured Maureen Curtis, 64, who survived the devastating Camp Fire that razed Paradise, said: “I heard about these famous people in Malibu hiring their own firefighters – we have nothing like that here.”
Many of the Paradise evacuees have been staying in makeshift emergency shelters at local churches and other community buildings.
They told Sun Online they had received no government help and feared for the future, particularly the many survivors without expensive fire insurance.
Curtis, who managed to escape the blaze with her two dogs Sparky and Buddy after her 10-year-old neighbour knocked on her door, said her whole street had burned down.
She explained: “The neighbour’s boy Jose – he’s only ten – he came knocking at my door screaming ‘Maureen we have to evacuate’.
“That was the first I heard of any fires. I don’t have a vehicle so I just grabbed my dogs, I left my glasses, my medication and even my dentures.
“Jose’s mother Crystal told me to climb in their SUV with their six kids and we just split as fast as we could.
“The youngest kids were only three and four so we tried to keep calm for their sake. There were flames all around but we were singing ‘wheels on the bus’ and ‘twinkle twinkle little star’ to stop the kids getting upset.”
The situation in Paradise is a far cry from the scenes in Malibu where millionaire celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Kanye West hired their own private firefighting team to prevent damage to their property.
Curtis said that Paradise doesn’t have rich people to help out, adding, “a lot of us don’t even have cars – it’s real sad.
“It’s like people in the Philippines when the hurricane hit, they didn’t get any attention and when hurricane Katrina hit, the poor people didn’t get any attention.
“And so far we haven’t seen anything from our government. The only help has been the Red Cross or other volunteers – people helping people, not the government.
“And when Donald Trump said that the fire was our fault because we weren’t properly managing our forests properly that really hit hard – it really upset me.
“It’s blaming us when climate change has hit us really hard out here with the drought. The drought has sucked all the water from the pine trees so they were dying, that’s why they burned so quickly.
“If they could have just given some money to cut down some of those trees, the fire would not have spread so fast.
“I’m uninsured, I have no insurance at all, so my biggest hope is that when they clear the property, I might be able to get a little trailer to put on it and live there.”
As the grim search continues to find the remains of victims, Curtis said she counted herself “lucky” and “grateful to be alive.”
About 300 people remain missing, according to a list released on Wednesday night, and law enforcement officials told Sun Online it was becoming increasingly unlikely those people would now be found alive.
Many of the bodies have been so badly burned that only bone fragments remain.
Sun Online joined a group of National Guard soldiers on their grim search and rescue mission, sifting through hundreds of razed homes.
At an incinerated family home on a large property, 20 soldiers started at the perimeter, walking in a line checking every inch of ground – in case anybody had died trying to run from the fire.
Wearing white hazmat suits, gloves and foot covers and heavy duty face masks, the men and women then painstakingly sifted through the burnt and twisted metal of the house looking for human remains.
Heartbreakingly, a child’s chalk drawing of a cat and a flower along with a toy truck could be seen on the front step.
When the soldiers looked under the fallen roof panels to see if anyone had hidden themselves there, one shouted: “Wait – I think I found something. I think it could be a hip bone.”
Any remains found were examined by the coroner and forensically tested.
By the end of Wednesday the Sheriff’s Department revealed it had found eight new sets of remains, raising the death toll from 48 to 56.
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Sgt Steve Collins, from the Butte County Sheriff’s Dept said: “At this point our main focus is finding remains. Of course we would love it if we found survivors but as each day passes that chance gets smaller.
“This is a huge operation and who knows how long it will last – we’ve lost 6,300 homes here in Paradise and we will be checking all of them.
“Any remains are being brought here and depending on the condition of the remains we might be able to get finger prints or dental records or DNA testing.
“We might also be able to identify them from the vehicle they were in or from the residence we found them in.”