PARADISE, Butte Co. (KPIX 5) — Thursday morning, when the Camp Fire was closing in on the area surrounding Butte County, the blaze was moving as quickly as a football field (100 yards) per second.
For many, there was no way to outrun the fire. Currently, there are more than 100 people reported missing as a result of the devastating fire.
Ten coroner’s office teams were spread out in Paradise and the surrounding communities starting on Sunday, embarking on the daunting task to find the remains of those still unaccounted for in the ashes.
“We’re just going door to door, house to house, looking for families loved ones that are missing,” said Jake Hancock, who is a District Attorney Investigator in Butte County.
Investigators tried to find signs of where a bedroom used to be, or a bathtub or a fireplace, or anywhere someone may have been trapped or tried to use as shelter.
The intensity and heat of the Camp Fire made the recovery task more difficult.
“In some cases, the only remains we are able to recover are bones or bone fragments,” said Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea.
But on Sunday, right off Gregory Lane in Paradise, the recovery effort turned into a rescue.
Vicky Vincent with the Shasta County Coroner’s Office found an exhausted, soot-covered black and white cat among the ashes.
“I don’t usually get to recovery anything that’s alive. It’s nice to be able to save something,” said Vincent.
Butte County animal control officers took the cat to a local shelter where it will hopefully be reunited with its owners. In the meantime, the team went back to work.
It was a difficult task for Hancock, who was born and raised in Paradise.
“You come up here and you drive down the streets of the city, and I don’t think words can really express the feelings you have of loss and pain,” he said.
Unimaginable destruction for a city that was named after Heaven itself. But when KPIX 5 asked Hancock to describe the city now, he still called it “Paradise.”
“It’s our home, so we’ll make it that.”
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