PARADISE (CBS13) — Rain is set to hit Northern California Wednesday and it could complicate the search for remains of victims of the Camp Fire.
“This is monumental. It’s very very difficult,” said Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea.
It’s a daunting task as hundreds of search crews from the National Guard, to coroner investigators, firefighters, and anthropologists rush to find the remains of wildfire victims.
“We brought a lot of resources in to get ahead of it, and get as much work done before the rains come,” said Sheriff Honea.
The Camp Fire was so intense that in many areas, remains have been reduced to bone or bone fragments. Sheriff Honea is concerned the rain will make things more difficult.
“The mud or ash, wet ash, could slow down our process,” he said.
Sheriff Honea says the problem with the rain is that it can wash away remains, it can bury remains, and turn the debris into the mud, which then poses a safety risk.
“You’ve seen the trees badly burned, unstable to begin with, if they become water soaked , there’s the potential for them to go down and create a hazard,” he said.
For firefighters on the front lines, the rain brings some relief, but Cal Fire Captain Joshpae White says now is not a good time.
“When we have fires come through like this, we lose a lot of vegetation that holds the soil together and it could create the potential for mudflows and debris flows,” said Captain White.
The scorched hillsides are susceptible to failure causing ash and debris flows and potential mudslides. And the National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for Butte County.
“It only takes a couple inches of water to move vehicles, to move fire engines,” said White. “We’re trying to clear some of the culverts, to make sure the water has somewhere to go, divert it to where it needs to go, instead of coming down the hill slides.”
The alert is in effect from Wednesday through Friday. The National Weather Service Flash Flood Watch also advised that those traveling along portions of Highway 70 and the Skyway in Butte County should be alert for possible road problems due to flooding, rock, and debris flows.
Residents in Butte County who have repopulated areas within the burn scar, or those who are downstream of that area, are reminded to remain vigilant