The task is painstaking and painful. A searcher is given the name of someone who is unaccounted for and an address.
A team heads over to the property, more than likely one where every evidence of life has been wiped out by flames. Many of the searchers are local and have lost their own homes. Now they look to see whether they can find the remains of their neighbors.
Five more sets of remains were found Saturday, Butte County Sheriff and Coroner Kory Honea said.
There are now at least 76 dead from the Camp Fire, which has obliterated more structures and lives than any previous fire in California.
Almost all of the town of Paradise is gone. President Donald Trump witnessed the devastation for himself Saturday, accompanied by Gov. Jerry Brown and Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom.
“We’re all going to work together and we’ll do a real job, but this is very sad to see,” Trump said.
A list of people unaccounted for has almost 1,300 names on it. Officials hope they find those people at shelters, or that missing people were simply without phone service and will eventually call in, or that they will figure out duplicate names when reconciling the list.
They are also trying to help thousands of people who did make it out alive but have nowhere to go, except for the parking lot of a Walmart and other places that are hosting thousands in their vehicles and tents.
“It is overwhelming, I don’t have any word to describe it,” Honea told CNN on Saturday. “This is unprecedented. No one has had to deal with this magnitude that caused so much destruction and regrettably so much death.”
In addition to the dozens killed, three other deaths were reported in the Woolsey Fire in Southern California, bringing the statewide death toll from the wildfires to 74.
Meanwhile, three deaths have been reported in the Woolsey Fire in Southern California, bringing the statewide death toll from the wildfires to 79.
President Donald Trump is expected to visit the region Saturday. Gov. Jerry Brown and Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom plan to accompany him.
‘A lot of people don’t know … we’re looking for them’
Officials have said it’s hard to determine the number of missing. Some who may have evacuated can’t be reached because cell phone service is unreliable, while others haven’t reached out to relatives, and they may not know someone is looking for them, Honea said.
“That is raw data we’re collecting from phone calls, emails and the 911 system,” Honea said Saturday. “It’s not perfect data, but our thought process is that it’s better to get that information out to help start getting people accounted for. So rather than wait for perfection, we’re trying to get some progress going.”
Hundreds of deputies, National Guard troops, coroners and anthropologists are sifting through leveled homes and mangled cars for remains. While the focus is on the homes of people reported missing, some teams are going down streets from one property to the next.
“I want you to understand that there are a lot of people displaced, and we’re finding that a lot of people don’t know that we’re looking for them,” the sheriff said.
If people find their own or loved ones’ names on the list at the Butte County Sheriff’s Office’s website, they should call the sheriff’s office, Honea said. <