Wildfires Reflect a National Crisis on Climate Change

The California assemblyman Jim Wood spent most of the past week in the Sacramento morgue, analyzing the charred remains of human teeth.

Wood is a forensic-dentistry expert, and has worked on some of the nation’s most tragic events, including 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. Since his election to the State Assembly, in 2014—representing an enormous district that stretches from Santa Rosa, in wine country, north to the Oregon border—his forensics work has been closer to home. In 2017, after the Tubbs Fire, in Sonoma County, which was, until now, the state’s deadliest fire, he was the sole dental-forensics expert on hand, and helped identify some of the twenty-two fatalities. For the Camp Fire, which began on November 8th and became the deadliest and most destructive fire in California’s history, he recruited a team of four others. “The numbers are so high, the conditions of the remains so fragmented, and the lack of before-death records is creating a real, real challenge,” he told me. “There may be some people who are never identified.” Of the eighty-five fatalities, twenty-seven have been identified, thanks in part to the work of Wood’s team. The body count will likely continue to increase; two hundred and ninety-six people are still missing. “With this one,” he told me, “the numbers of missing are not dropping as rapidly as they did in Sonoma, and I find that to be really troubling.”

Read the entire article at Newyorker.com