‘Camp Fire’ evacuees are allowed to return home 38 days since the deadly wildfire began

The remaining residents who fled from the deadliest wildfire in California history were allowed to return to their home Saturday and assess the damage.

All evacuation orders were lifted in Paradise more than a month after the Camp Fire wildfire broke out November 8, killing at least 86 people and destroying 14,000 homes in the town and nearby communities in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

Authorities warned Paradise has limited services and advised residents to use power generators and have enough food, water and fuel for their vehicles.

The Butte County health officer issued an advisory strongly urging people not to live on destroyed property until it is declared clear of hazardous waste, ash and debris.

‘There is evidence from recent fires in California that homes and property destroyed by fire contain high and concerning levels of heavy metals, lead, mercury, dioxin, arsenic and other carcinogens,’ according to a statement by the county sheriff and Paradise police departments.

Burned-out homes and a vehicle stands in Paradise, California, November 15 after the Camp Fire wildfire broke out on November 8 

Burned-out homes and a vehicle stands in Paradise, California, November 15 after the Camp Fire wildfire broke out on November 8 

Burned-out homes and a vehicle stands in Paradise, California, November 15 after the Camp Fire wildfire broke out on November 8 

Around 14,000 homes were destroyed by the fatal fire that claimed the lives of 86 people 

Around 14,000 homes were destroyed by the fatal fire that claimed the lives of 86 people 

Around 14,000 homes were destroyed by the fatal fire that claimed the lives of 86 people 

Some people returning to their properties may have no home left standing following the fires

Some people returning to their properties may have no home left standing following the fires

Some people returning to their properties may have no home left standing following the fires

The county is providing masks, gloves and protective suits to reduce exposure to toxic materials.

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Authorities also warned of an increased risk for flash flooding in the burn areas.

Conditions leading into the fire were exceptionally dry. Typically autumn rains would have fallen by that time of year, but less than an inch of rain had fallen in seven months. 

The blaze started around 6.30am and spread at ‘incredible speed,’ consuming seven-square-miles an hour at one point, according to a report out Thursday by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire). 

Driven by wind gusts up to 35 mph, it marched 15 miles in 12 hours with spot fires blowing a mile ahead of fire lines.

Although fire ripped through the area 10 years earlier, when flames jumped the west fork of the Feather River it entered dense forest that had not burned in recorded history. Treetops were close together and heavy manzanita and oaks below were ripe for burning.

By the time it hit Paradise, it was an ‘urban firestorm’ spreading among buildings in a manner the report compared to the allied bombings that razed the city of Hamburg, Germany in World War II and killed tens of thousands of people.

File photo from November 8 shows the Camp Fire raging through Paradise, Calif. Insurance claims from last month's California wildfires already are at $9 billion and expected to increase, the state's insurance commissioner announced Wednesday

File photo from November 8 shows the Camp Fire raging through Paradise, Calif. Insurance claims from last month's California wildfires already are at $9 billion and expected to increase, the state's insurance commissioner announced Wednesday

File photo from November 8 shows the Camp Fire raging through Paradise, Calif. Insurance claims from last month’s California wildfires already are at $9 billion and expected to increase, the state’s insurance commissioner announced Wednesday

Cal Fire, the state’s forestry and fire protection agency, has said the cause of the Camp Fire is still under investigation.

A federal judge ordered California utility company Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) to explain any potential role it played causing the deadly Camp Fire and any other major wildfires in the state. 

The company has until Dec. 31 to submit written answers to federal officials, according to court documents.

A PG&E employee called 911 on the day the fire started to report spotting flames in the vicinity of a high-voltage tower near the town of Pulga in Butte County.

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