The effort to locate the remains of people killed in the Camp Fire north of Sacramento has concluded, the Butte County Sheriff’s office announced this week. The remains of 88 people were recovered from the blaze.
The Camp Fire, which was fully contained on Sunday after burning 153,335 acres, was by far the deadliest fire in California history. The second-deadliest fire, Los Angeles’ 1933 Griffith Park Fire, killed 29. The wildfire is also the deadliest U.S. fire since 1918, when the Cloquet fire in Minnesota killed 450.
Butte County Sheriff Cory Honea said that the search team had gone through roughly 18,000 structures, including many homes, in their search for human remains. Going forward, the sheriff’s office will only conduct searches for remains when it receives specific tips from the public.
“I have a high degree of confidence in the searches that were done, and I believe we have done our due diligence with regard to searching for human remains. My sincere hope is that no additional human remains will be located,” Honea said on Wednesday night.
About 126 people are still unaccounted for, down from a peak of about 1,200 missing. Honea has said previously that many people who are on the list were displaced by the fire, and may simply be unaware that anyone is searching for them.
Now that officials believe all of the bodies have been recovered, Honea also announced that residents can begin returning to parts of Paradise — which was largely destroyed in the blaze — early next week.
Honea added that there is a chance that additional human remains may be discovered as residents begin to return to their homes. He asked that residents who find bones or bone fragments avoid disturbing them and immediately contact his office.
Honea also corrected an earlier statement in which he had said that some of the remains might have been fully consumed in the fire. Honea said that he has been assured that it is “not within the realm of possibility.”