California October wildfire death toll hits 44 as man dies

2017 AP YEAR END PHOTOS - Homes burned by a wildfire are seen on Oct. 11, 2017, in Santa Rosa, Calif. Wildfires whipped by powerful winds swept through Northern California sending residents on a headlong flight to safety through smoke and flames as homes burned. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

SANTA ROSA, Calif. - A man who was badly burned in deadly wildfires in Northern California last month has died of his injuries, raising the fires' death toll to 44.

Michel Azarian, 41, died Sunday at University of California Davis Medical Center in Sacramento where he was being treated for extensive burns, San Francisco radio station KQED reported Tuesday.

Azarian was an engineer who loved photography and hiking and had moved to Santa Rosa two years ago for a new job, his friend, Khachik Papanyan, told the radio station.

Papanyan said it appeared that Azarian tried to take shelter in a small clearing near his home. That's where he was discovered with severe burns on more than half his body.

"He was an intelligent, fun-loving, nature-loving guy that always had a broad smile on his face, was always there for his friends," Papanyan said. "He's now in the heavens, and he will be with us in our memories forever. It was an honour, a great honour, knowing him."

Sonoma County was one of the hardest hit, with 24 people killed and whole residential blocks in the city of Santa Rosa completely decimated. Another 20 people were killed in Napa, Mendocino and Yuba counties.

Sonoma County officials said missing person reports, which peaked at over 2,000, have been resolved.

Victims were taken hospitals throughout Northern California and if it's unclear how many remain hospitalized.

A series of blazes that started the night of Oct. 8 destroyed about 8,900 homes and other buildings in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Yuba Counties.

At the peak of the firestorm that started the night of Oct. 8, there were 21 major wildfires that burned a combined total of more than 383 square miles (992 square kilometres) and forced 100,000 people to flee their homes.

The fires destroyed 8,900 homes and other buildings.

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Information from: KQED-FM.


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