California victims received ‘erroneous information’ about fire: report

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Two California residents who were found dead near their fire-ravaged home had been packed and ready to evacuate but changed their minds due to erroneous information, according to a report.

Philip Ruble, 68, was found inside a charred Toyota pickup truck at the home, while Millicent Catarancuic, 77 was found in an embankment in the area six days ago, CNN reported, citing Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea.

“After speaking to family members, it is believed the pair was aware of the fire in the area,” Honea said. “They had packed their belongings in preparation to evacuate but later decided not to evacuate based on erroneous information that the fire was 51 percent contained.”

Ruble and Catarancuic lived in Berry Creek, which has been all but destroyed by the Bear Fire, part of the North Complex, whose death toll has risen to at least 15.

Berry Creek was under an evacuation order as of 3:15 p.m. Sept. 8 – and the information was posted on social media and on a fire information line, according to CNN.

Firefighters search through a burned residence during the Bear fire.
Firefighters search through a burned residence during the Bear fire.AFP via Getty Images

Police also drove around with evacuation sirens and went door to door where possible, Butte County spokeswoman Megan McCann told CNN, which reported that it is unknown where the two fire victims saw or heard the containment figure before the fire quickly grew the day they died.

In addition to 15 fatalities, 13 people are unaccounted for in the North Complex Fire, which has been burning for almost a month and is the eighth largest in California history.

Some 273,000 acres have been burned and more than 780 structures have been destroyed in the fire, according to CNN.

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