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California Wildfires Kill 31

An aerial view of the Coffey Park neighborhood in Santa Rosa, California destroyed by wildfire.An aerial view of the Coffey Park neighborhood in Santa Rosa, California destroyed by wildfire.

The death toll from raging California wildfires rose to 31 Thursday as body recovery teams used cadaver dogs to locate victims, making it the deadliest series of blazes in the state's history.

The fires, which began on Sunday, have swept through California, leaving thousands of people homeless and burning over 190,000 acres (76,000 hectares) of land, AFP reported.

Gusty winds on Thursday were hampering the efforts of the 8,000 firefighters battling 20 blazes, and weather conditions were not forecast to improve.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) announced Thursday that the fires have claimed 31 lives, while Sheriff Rob Giordano of hard-hit Sonoma County said his department has received around 1,100 reports of missing persons.

Of those, "745 of them, roughly, have been located safe," while "we still have 400 outstanding," Giordano said, noting that the actual figure may be smaller because there are sometimes duplicate reports.

He said targeted body recovery efforts had begun in cases where all other leads were exhausted.

"We're moving into a recovery phase," he said. "We have cadaver dogs up here that can basically scent bodies and help us find people."

Giordano warned that it was "going to be a slow process" as fires continue to burn, and that identifying victims would be difficult.

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