Firefighters walk arrive at decimated Paramount Ranch for a meeting with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Agoura Hills, Calif. The landmark film location burned to the ground by the Woolsey Fire. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The Latest: Investors drive up stock of utility eyed in fire

November 16, 2018 - 1:05 pm

CHICO, Calif. (AP) — The Latest on California's wildfires (all times local):

10 a.m.

Shares of Pacific Gas & Electric Co. have soared after California's top utility regulator said his agency will help the company deal with potentially crippling liability costs from wildfires.

Stock prices soared 36 percent in midday trading Friday after plunging 60 percent and losing $15 billion in valuation in the week following the outbreak of a Northern California wildfire that is the nation's deadliest in a century.

No cause has been determined, but speculation has centered on PG&E, which reported an outage around the time and place the fire ignited.

Late Thursday, California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Picker sought to calm financial markets by indicating support for the continued viability of PG&E and other publicly traded utilities.

In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Picker said his agency will soon implement a provision in a new state law that allows utilities to pass costs for past wildfires to their customers. He said additional legislation may be needed to ensure that provision applies to this year's fires.

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9:10 a.m.

Authorities have so far counted 616 structures were destroyed and 183 damaged by the deadly Southern California fire.

The latest numbers issued Friday morning reflect damage assessments in 57 percent of the burned area.

Containment of the fire has also increased to 69 percent of the fire zone encompassing 153 square miles (396 square kilometers) of suburbs and wilderness west of Los Angeles.

Firefighters could be helped by onshore flows of moist air from the Pacific, with some gusts up to 20 mph (32 kph) in the afternoon and increased humidity levels.

Firefighters are monitoring unburned islands of vegetation and crews are working to restore utilities.

Repopulation of evacuated areas is continuing but authorities say some areas remain off-limits due to hazards ranging from burned power poles to compromised gas lines and destroyed roadways.

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8:10 a.m.

Officials say they have contained almost half of a Northern California deadly blaze that razed a town and killed at least 63 people.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said Friday the wildfire that destroyed the town of Paradise is now 45 percent contained, up from 40 percent Thursday morning.

The department says the blaze has charred 222 square miles (575 square kilometers), destroyed 144 apartment buildings and 9,700 homes.

Butte County Sheriff's Kory Honea told reporters Thursday night that 630 people are on a missing list.

He said many may be safe, but that he's making the list public so people can let officials know they're safe.

More than 450 people are combing through debris in the search for human remains.

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7:45 a.m.

Forecasters are predicting rain early next week for the Northern California area where a deadly blaze that decimated a town continues to burn a week after it started.

The wet weather could help firefighters extinguish the massive blaze earlier than expected.

But officials say rain could also complicate the efforts of dozens of teams who are sifting through ash and debris, looking for human remains.

The National Weather Service said Friday that the northeast corner of California, where the town of Paradise is located, will get rain starting Tuesday night.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said Thursday he brought in dozens of search teams to search for remains "as expeditiously as possible."

At least 63 people were killed after the fire swept through Paradise and other communities on Nov. 8

Honea's office Thursday published a missing list with 631 names that probably includes names of people who fled the blaze and don't know they are being sought.

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12 a.m.

Fire officials in Northern California say the list of 631 people missing in the nation's deadliest wildfire in a century probably includes people who fled the blaze and don't know they're being sought.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea says he's making that list public so that people can let authorities know they're safe. Meanwhile, 63 people are confirmed dead and some 52,000 are displaced in shelters, motels and the homes of friends and relatives.

Others are at a Walmart parking lot and an adjacent field in Chico, a dozen miles away from the ashes.

At the vast shelter parking lot, evacuees from California's deadliest fire wonder if they still have homes, if their neighbors are still alive — and where they will go when their place of refuge shuts down in a matter of days.

The Northern California fire that began a week earlier obliterated the town of Paradise . Searchers have pulled bodies from incinerated homes and cremated cars. But in many cases, the victims may have been reduced to bits of bones and ash.

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