Rain helps to bring California wildfires under control

By | November 25, 2018

Deadly wildfires that have ravaged northern California for weeks are almost contained thanks to several days of rain.

Search crews are still carrying out the meticulous task of combing through ash and debris that are now damp and muddy.

Destroyed neighbourhoods are being searched for a second time as hundreds of people are still missing.

They are looking for traces of bone or anything that looks like a pile of cremated ashes.

Craig Covey, who led a team out of southern California’s Orange County, temporarily pulled his 30-member team off the search as heavy rain and wind knocked down trees and made conditions dangerous.

Engineers are trying to store power to thousands of homes
Image: Engineers are trying to restore power to thousands of homes

The country’s deadliest wildfires in the past century have killed at least 84 people, and 475 are still unaccounted for.

More than 800 volunteers searched for remains on Thanksgiving and again on Friday – two weeks after flames swept through the Sierra Nevada foothills.

Although rain hampered the search, it also helped almost extinguish the blaze, said Josh Bischof, operations chief for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

He said once the rain clears, state officials will be able to determine if the blaze is fully out.

The fires ignited on 8 November and destroyed almost 19,000 buildings, most of them homes.

A helicopter rescues people from a mountain top in Malibu during California wildfires 1:31
Video: Los Angeles Fire Department pilots saved the lives of three people and two dogs with a daring Malibu hilltop rescue

The first winter storm to hit California has dropped two to four inches of rain over the burnt out area since it began on Wednesday, the National Weather Service said.

A warning has been issued of possible flash flooding and debris flows from areas scarred by major fires in northern California.

More from California Wildfires

In southern California, more residents were allowed to return to areas that were evacuated because of the 151-square-mile Woolsey Fire as crews worked to repair power, telephone and gas utilities.

Around 1,100 residents remain under evacuation orders in Malibu and in some areas of Los Angeles County, down from 250,000 at the height of the fires.

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