Rain Dampens Deadly California Wildfire
A catastrophic wildfire in northern California is nearly out after several days of rain, but searchers are still combing through muddy ash and debris for human remains.
Crews have resumed the grim work as rain cleared in the devastated town of Paradise.
Some searchers were looking through destroyed neighbourhoods for a second time on Saturday, as hundreds of people remain unaccounted for.
They were looking for telltale fragments of bone or anything that looked like a pile of cremated ashes.
The nation's deadliest wildfire in a century has killed at least 84 people, and 475 are on a list of those reported missing.
The flames ignited on November 8 in the parched Sierra Nevada foothills and quickly spread across 620 square kilometres, destroying most of Paradise in a day.
The fire burned down nearly 19,000 buildings, most of them homes, and displaced thousands of people, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.
The two-week firefight was given a boost on Wednesday from the first significant winter-like storm to hit California.
An estimated 18 centimetres of rain fell over the burn area in a three-day period without causing significant mudslides, said Hannah Chandler-Cooley of the National Weather Service.
The rain helped extinguish hotspots in smouldering areas, and the blaze is now 95 per cent contained.
Despite the inclement weather, more than 800 volunteers have kept searching for remains, with crews working on and off amid a downpour on Friday.
While the rain made everybody colder and wetter, volunteers 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."
In southern California, more residents have returned to areas evacuated in a separate fire as crews repaired power, telephone and gas utilities.
Los Angeles County sheriff officials said they were in the last phase of repopulating Malibu and unincorporated areas of the county.
At the height of the fire, 250,000 fled their homes after flames erupted on November 8 just west of Los Angeles and burned through suburban communities and wilderness parklands.
Three people died, and 1643 buildings, most of them homes, were destroyed, officials said.