PARADISE (CBS SF/AP) — With an assist from Mother Nature, Cal Fire announced Sunday morning that the Camp Fire — the nation’s deadliest wildfire in a century — had been fully contained.
The blaze charred 153,336 acres, destroyed more than 13,000 homes and killed at least 85 people with 249 still unaccounted for. It caused mass destruction and death in the Butte County communities of Paradise, Concow and Magalia.
More than 50,000 were forced to flee the flames, many who have lost their homes and were now living in evacuation shelters and makeshift camps. Some 4,000 firefighters from throughout the state and the West battled the flames at the height of the fire.
“It’s certainly good to be done with the containment of this fire, even though there’s still a lot of work to be done moving forward,” fire spokeswoman Jennifer Erickson said.
On Sunday, searchers were still completing the meticulous task of combing through now-muddy ash and debris for signs of human remains.
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 two-week firefight got a boost Wednesday 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, said Hannah Chandler-Cooley of the National Weather Service.
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, said Chris Stevens, a search volunteer who wore five layers of clothing to keep warm.
“It doesn’t change the spirits of the guys working,” he said. “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.