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California Camp Fire Death Toll Up To 84 As Rain Brings Risk Of Mudslides

The death toll continues to mount in the Northern California Camp fire, and the area is bracing for possible mudslides as rain pours down on charred land.

The number of people who died in the blaze near Paradise rose to 84 on Thanksgiving Day, as more bodies were found amid the ashes of the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in state history.

There were still 563 people missing as of Wednesday ― a number that has fluctuated wildly since the blaze’s start on Nov. 8, as it is difficult to get an accurate count after such a disaster.

More than 13,600 homes have burned down in the Camp fire, and as of Tuesday nearly 1,000 people remained in shelters across California, according to the Red Cross.

When rain finally came down across Northern California on Wednesday, after a long period of dry weather, the downpour brought relief to those battling the ongoing blaze, assisting in “extinguishing hot spots,” per Cal Fire. But the rain also brought a heightened risk of mudslides.

By Friday morning, the Camp fire was virtually out, with 95 percent of it contained. But as it rained hard Friday morning, and with forecasts expecting it to last until late into the day, the National Weather Service warned that burned areas would “continue to be at risk for mud [and] debris flows.”

On Thanksgiving Day, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea posted a video message saying that “despite the tragedy we’re dealing with … there’s a lot to be thankful for.”

“This has been a tough situation for all of us,” the sheriff said, noting that his officers hadn’t taken the day off and over 800 were in the field conducting search efforts.

“We’re in this together, we are Butte County strong,” he added.

On Thanksgiving Day, celebrity chef José Andrés and his nonprofit World Central Kitchen came to the hardest-hit areas around Paradise and served thousands of meals to evacuees and first responders.

In Southern California, where the Woolsey fire killed three people earlier this month, the risk of mudslides appeared to have passed over Thanksgiving, as rain left the area.  

Earlier this year, more than 20 people died in devastating mudslides in Southern California after heavy rainfall hit areas near Montecito that had recently been razed by wildfires.

Mudslides are a common risk after wildfires, as vegetation that may have held back debris is burned away, setting the stage for mudflows. Scorched terrain also less easily absorbs rain, with burned soil “as water repellant as pavement,” according to the weather service.

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