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First victims of California wildfires named as number of dead rises to 58

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The first of the victims of the California wildfires have been named by officials in the north of the state.

It comes as the number of people killed in the state’s deadliest fire rises to 58, with North California worst affected where 56 bodies have so far been recovered.

At the other end of the state, a further two people were killed in a blaze across Malibu.

Ernest Foss, 63, was a musician who had moved to the town of Paradise from San Francisco eight years ago.

His daughter Angela Loo said he was in poor health and could not walk. “I love that he shared his gift of music with me and so many others during his lifetime,” she said.

Jesus Fernandez, who lived in the town of Concow also died in the inferno.

Myrna Pascua, whose husband was best friends with the 48-year-old called him a “tireless provider, a dependable and loyal friend, a considerate neighbour, and loving father. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.”

The third victim named so far is 77-year-old Carl Wiley, who worked for the Michelin tyre company.

The release of the names comes as a utility company is sued by victims over claims its power lines caused the fire.

According to papers filed in state court in California by more than two dozen fire victims, the Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) did not maintain its infrastructure and failed to properly inspect and manage its power transmission lines, which were seen to be sparking on the day before the blaze began.

The fire that ruined swathes of land across the state was a “direct and legal result of the negligence, carelessness, recklessness, and/or unlawfulness” of PG&E, the lawsuit added.

The legal action seeks compensation for losses and unspecified damages.

The cause of the blaze has not yet officially been declared.

PG&E told state regulators last week that it experienced a problem on a transmission line in the area of the fire just before the blaze erupted.

In its filing on Thursday with the state Public Utilities Commission, it said it had detected an outage on an electrical transmission line.

It said a subsequent aerial inspection detected damage to a transmission tower on the line.

A landowner near where the blaze began, Betsy Ann Cowley, said PG&E notified her the day before the blaze that crews needed to come onto her property because the utility company’s wires were sparking.

PG&E President Geisha Williams told the Chico Enterprise-Record on Tuesday that it was too soon to determine if sparks from a transmission line ignited the fire.

She said the sparks are one of several “options” investigators are reviewing.

The fire has destroyed about 7,700 homes.

The flames all but obliterated the town of Paradise, population 27,000, and ravaged surrounding areas on Thursday.

The exact number of missing is still unclear, but many friends and relatives of those living in the fire zone said they had not heard from loved ones.

(c) Sky News 2018: First victims of California wildfires named as number of dead rises to 58