The search for human remains in Paradise, California.
Photo: AP

Miraculously, the number of dead from California’s Camp Fire—the deadliest and most destructive fire in the state’s history—has fallen from 88 to 85, the Butte County Sheriff’s Department announced Monday.

Along with a drop in the death count—a result of DNA testing that showed some remains thought to be of separate people were actually from a single person—the number of those unaccounted for has dropped to 11 people, too. Last month, that number soared above 1,000 people. Even last week, hundreds were missing. Officials haven’t found any more human remains since last week, but they’re continuing their search. From those who died, the department is certain about the identity of 43 people.

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Things finally seem to be winding down from this disastrous fire, which started outside of Paradise on November 8 and quickly engulfed the small city. It reached over 150,000 acres in size before it was fully contained on November 25.

Cleanup of hazardous waste began Monday. Inside people’s homes, cleaning supplies and batteries stayed behind. None of that burnt residue is good for the environment or our health, so the Environmental Protection Agency is leading efforts to remove it.

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Now, families are trying to regain some sense of normalcy. Some are still living out of hotels, while others are already snatching up homes in  nearby Chico. The Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates some 2,000 people still need assistance with housing and is going to offer temporary mobile homes, reports the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Kids finally returned to school this week after three weeks in limbo. All their missed lessons, as well as the psychological trauma of having lived through such a disaster, should not be overlooked. Unaddressed, these can have longlasting effects on youth and their ability to succeed.

It’s a sad situation—and one that may become more common as climate change makes large, destructive fires more likely. The immediate cause of this fire is still unknown, but all eyes are on power company PG&E, which the federal government is investigating.

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