The most recent California wildfire has heavily damaged Paradise, Calif., as well as several surrounding communities. As of Sunday, Nov. 25, the blaze has been 100 percent contained. Nonetheless, remaining debris poses a toxic threat to residents and recent rainfall complicates the ability of rescue teams to identify victims.
On Thursday, Nov. 8, the California wildfire known as “Camp Fire” broke out in Northern California in Butte County. The catastrophe was named after Camp Creek Road, near which it originated. Although the fire was reported soon after it sprang to life at 6:33 a.m. PST, firefighters were unable to immediately stop the spread of the blaze because of the area’s low humidity and wind speeds of up to 50 mph. By the end of that day, the town of Paradise and the Concow community were almost completely destroyed.
According to the Weather Channel, at least 7,000 structures burned down in Paradise and the community of Concow. Among the destroyed land were five public schools, a Christmas tree farm, and a shopping center.
The Washington Post reports that the Camp Fire has resulted in 85 known casualties and 296 missing people. Additionally, 14,000 residencies were destroyed and 153,000 acres of Butte County — an area about the size of Chicago — were ravaged by the fire.
Despite the announcement on Nov. 25 that the Camp Fire was completely contained, much of the debris and ash that remains caused U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar to declare a public health emergency for California. Due to the wildfire, two hospitals and eight public health facilities were evacuated.
The California Conservation Corps currently has 10 crews working in Butte County to regulate runoff from the Camp Fire remains, according to KCRA Sacramento. Each day, the California Conservation Corps lays out 5,000 feet of wattles, straw fiber rolls designed to keep chemicals from the fire out of civilian drainage.
Heavy rain last week in California helped firefighters contain the Camp Fire, but California residents now face potential flash floods and mudflows as a consequence. Moreover, according to CNN, the rain could obscure human remains and impede efforts to find and identify Camp Fire victims, complicating the search and rescue process.
“[The rain is] going to consolidate the material and make it more dense,” said Brian Ferreira, a rescue squad officer for California Task Force 4. “And it’s going to present much more like soil. So anything we find or hope to find that’s still there, it’s going to make a difficult task . . . that much more difficult. We’re going to go as hard as we can, as long as we can, until we can’t go anymore. That’s what’s going to happen.”