Camp Fire death toll rises to 86 after man who suffered third-degree burns dies

The official death toll from November’s Camp Fire has risen to 86, the Butte County Sheriff’s Department said Thursday.

Paul Ernest, 72, died Monday after spending the last nine months in hospitals, his family confirmed. He had been living in Paradise when the fire broke out and received third-degree burns covering nearly 40 percent of his body.

“It’s very difficult,” his son Jessee Ernest said in an interview Wednesday. “We’ve held on for nine months for this to be the outcome.”

Of the 86 fatalities, 80 have been positively identified, four have been tentatively identified and two remain unknown, according to a news release from the Butte County Sheriff’s Department.

The Camp Fire, which began Nov. 8, is the deadliest in California history, killing 85 people and destroying nearly 19,000 buildings, according to previous Bee reports. The blaze wiped out 90 percent of Paradise and left tens of thousands of people homeless.

The fire was officially contained Nov. 25. The fire was started in the Butte County hills by power lines belonging to Pacific Gas & Electric, The Bee previously reported.

Hundreds were reported missing in the days following the fire. Last week, one of two people still unaccounted for was found.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee

Meghan Bobrowsky, from Scripps College, is a local news reporter for The Sacramento Bee, focusing on breaking news and school funding. She grew up in nearby Davis.