California wildfire tamped down by rain as grim search continues

Number of unaccounted for people from Camp Fire now 475

After days of heavy rain, a brightening forecast is allowing search and recovery crews to move faster in Paradise, California; Jeff Paul reports.

The deadly Camp Fire that has burned across more than 150,000 acres in California has been completely contained.

California Fire officials said the blaze at Camp Creek Road near Jarbo Gap in Butte County, which had been burning since November 8, is "now 100 percent contained."

It has burned across a total of 153,336 acres, destroying 13,972 residences, 528 commercial and 4,293 other buildings.

It comes after reports earlier Sunday the catastrophic wildfire in Northern California is nearly out after several days of rain, but rescue workers are still combing through muddy ash and debris for signs of human remains.

Crews resumed the grim work as the rain cleared out of the devastated town of Paradise. Some were looking through destroyed neighborhoods for a second time as hundreds of people remain unaccounted for. They were searching for telltale fragments or bone or anything that looks like a pile of cremated ashes.

The nation's deadliest wildfire in a century has killed at least 84 people, and 475 are on a list of those reported missing. The flames ignited November 8 in the parched Sierra Nevada foothills and quickly spread across 240 square miles.

The town of Paradise was almost completely destroyed in just one day. The fire burned down nearly 19,000 buildings, most of them homes, and displaced thousands of people, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.


Steven McKnight, right, and Daniel Hansen saw through large pieces of sheet metal so they can be moved to allow cadaver dogs to search beneath them for signs of human remains at a mobile home park in Paradise, Calif., Friday, Nov. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Kathleen Ronayne)

The two-week firefight got a boost earlier in the week from the first significant storm to hit California. It dropped an estimated 7 inches of rain over the burn area over a three-day period without causing significant mudslides, Hannah Chandler-Cooley of the National Weather Service said.

The rain helped extinguish hotspots in smoldering areas, and containment increased to 95 percent. Despite the inclement weather, more than 800 volunteers kept searching for remains.

Crews worked on-and-off amid a downpour Friday. While the rain made everybody colder and wetter, they kept the mission in mind, Chris Stevens, a search volunteer who wore five layers of clothing to keep warm, said.


After a brief delay to let a downpour pass, volunteers resume their search for human remains at a mobile home park in Paradise, Calif., Friday, Nov. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Kathleen Ronayne)

"It doesn't change the spirits of the guys working," he told the Associated press. "Everyone here is super committed to helping the folks here."

His search crew went home to Orange County on Saturday after completing its assignment. Authorities also lifted evacuation orders for certain sections of Paradise.

In Southern California, more residents have returned to areas evacuated in a destructive fire as crews repaired power, telephone and gas utilities.

FILE – In this Nov. 9, 2018 file photo, firefighter Jose Corona sprays water as flames from the Camp Fire consume a home in Magalia, Calif. A massive new federal report warns that extreme weather disasters, like California’s wildfires and 2018’s hurricanes, are worsening in the United States. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

Los Angeles County sheriff's officials said they were in the last phase of repopulating Malibu and unincorporated areas of the county. At the height of the fire, 250,000 fled their homes.

Flames erupted Nov. 8 just west of Los Angeles and burned through suburban communities and wilderness parklands to the ocean. Three people died, and 1,643 buildings, most of them homes, were destroyed, officials said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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