SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/AP) — Pope Francis offered his prayers Sunday at the Vatican for the victims of California’s deadly wildfires.
Three have died in Southern California’s Woolsey Fire that has ripped through Malibu while the death toll in Butte County’s Camp Fire stood as 76 Sunday while dozens of teams searched for the remains of burned out homes, cars and businesses in the towns of Paradise, Concow and Magalia. More than 1200 are still missing.
Addressing tens of thousands of faithful in St. Peter’s Square Sunday, including pilgrims from New York and New Jersey. Francis prayed that “the Lord welcome the deceased into his peace, comfort family members and sustain all those involved in rescue efforts.”
Francis said he wanted to offer a “special prayer to all those stricken by the fires that are scourging California, and now also for the victims of the freeze of the east coast of the United States.”
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On Sunday, residents who were forced to flee the deadly flames were invited to a memorial service “to honor the lives we have lost and mourn the
tragedy our community has experienced” at the First Christian Church in Chico.
“Together, we will survive, we will rise and we will recover,” officials said in a news release.
Among those victims was 58-year-old Lolene Rios, whose remains were identified on Saturday. She was found in the basement of her Paradise home.
“She was the person that would help you without question,” said her step-daughter Maria. “She helped many people. The most nonjudgmental person I know. She was a breast cancer survivor. We had 5 dogs, and 3 cats and chickens. She loved her animals.”
Maria said Lolene did with her pets in her basement when she fled to shield her pets from the flames. Her husband, Rick, was on the roof trying to fight off the flames. He suffered severe burns, but was rescued and was being treated at UC-Davis Medical Center.
She told the San Francisco Chronicle that her father recently spoke to her from the hospital, where he’s been sedated and faces a long recovery and undergone the first of several skin grafts.
“My dad is in a lot of pain,” she said. “He keeps saying, ‘I have no skin, no skin.”