PARADISE, Butte County — A soaking rainstorm gave firefighters at the Camp Fire a welcome break a day before Thanksgiving, allowing them to scale back their two-week battle against the massive blaze as the slow search for human remains continued.
The rain should help douse the flames and speed up containment efforts, fire officials said Wednesday, but it could also create dangerous conditions in the form of mudslides, flooding, slick roads and falling trees. The storm also hampered efforts to find and recover bodies.
“It’s miserable,” said Dustin Topp, an engineer with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, as he worked in the rain. His team was combing through a trailer park that was home to people 55 and older, looking for human remains and checking for hazards like septic tanks.
As of Wednesday night, 83 deaths had been reported from the Camp Fire. Two remains were found on Wednesday, one in a structure in Paradise and another in a structure in Magalia, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said in a Wednesday night news conference.
Six more victims were identified Wednesday night, bringing the number of victims publicly identified to 12. Their names are Teresa Ammans, 82, of Paradise; Richard Brown, 74, of Concow; Marie Wehe, 78, of Concow; Kimber Wehr, 53, of Paradise; Joseph Rabetoy, 39, of Paradise; and Joan Tracy, 80, of Paradise.
Officials said the wildfire had burned 153,336 acres and crews had it 85 percent contained as of Wednesday night, according to Cal Fire. The inferno incinerated 13,503 residences and nearly 5,000 other buildings and still threatens 5,100 structures, officials said. About 563 people remain unaccounted for.
Fire crews planned to pull back Wednesday and let the rain do the work of putting out flames while teams focus on the search for victims, said Jim Mackensen, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service.