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Rain douses much of California wildfire, but complicates search for remains

Click to play video: 'Search resumes for survivors, victims of California wildfires as blazes almost fully contained' Search resumes for survivors, victims of California wildfires as blazes almost fully contained
WATCH: Search resumes for survivors, victims of California wildfires as blazes almost fully contained – Nov 25, 2018

PARADISE, Calif. – The catastrophic wildfire in Northern California is nearly out after several days of rain, but searchers are still completing the meticulous task of combing through now-muddy ash and debris for signs of human remains.

Crews resumed the grim work Saturday as rain cleared out of the devastated town of Paradise. Some were looking through destroyed neighbourhoods for a second time as hundreds of people remain unaccounted for. They were searching for telltale fragments or bone or anything that looks like a pile of cremated ashes.

READ MORE: Hundreds spend Thanksgiving searching for victims of California wildfire

The nation’s deadliest wildfire in a century has killed at least 84 people, and 475 are on a list of those reported missing. The flames ignited Nov. 8 in the parched Sierra Nevada foothills and quickly spread across 240 square miles (620 square kilometres), destroying most of Paradise in a day.

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The fire burned down nearly 19,000 buildings, most of them homes, and displaced thousands of people, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

WATCH: Thanksgiving in the ashes of Paradise, California

Click to play video: 'Thanksgiving in the ashes of Paradise, California' Thanksgiving in the ashes of Paradise, California
Thanksgiving in the ashes of Paradise, California – Nov 22, 2018

The two-week firefight got a boost Wednesday from the first significant winter-like storm to hit California. It dropped an estimated 7 inches (18 centimetres) of rain over the burn area over a three-day period without causing significant mudslides, said Hannah Chandler-Cooley of the National Weather Service.

The rain helped extinguish hotspots in smouldering areas, and containment increased to 95 per cent. Despite the inclement weather, more than 800 volunteers kept searching for remains.

READ MORE: California mom asks stranger to save newborn from wildfire if she can’t

Crews worked on-and-off amid a downpour Friday. While the rain made everybody colder and wetter, they kept the mission in mind, said Chris Stevens, a search volunteer who wore five layers of clothing to keep warm.

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“It doesn’t change the spirits of the guys working,” he said. “Everyone here is super committed to helping the folks here.”

WATCH: Butte county sheriff says ‘rain is of concern to us’

Click to play video: 'California wildfires: Butte county sheriff says ‘rain is of concern to us’' California wildfires: Butte county sheriff says ‘rain is of concern to us’
California wildfires: Butte county sheriff says ‘rain is of concern to us’ – Nov 21, 2018

In Southern California, more residents have returned to areas evacuated in a destructive fire as crews repaired power, telephone and gas utilities.

Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said they were in the last phase of repopulating Malibu and unincorporated areas of the county. At the height of the fire, 250,000 fled their homes.

Flames erupted Nov. 8 just west of Los Angeles and burned through suburban communities and wilderness parklands to the ocean. Three people died, and 1,643 buildings, most of them homes, were destroyed, officials said.

READ MORE: Photos show town before and after the Camp Fire destroyed it

In Northern California, searchers tried to keep their minds on the task rather than the tragic situation.

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“The guys will never say it’s hard,” crew member David Kang said. “But it is.”

WATCH: Dramatic helicopter rescue of man and dog during California wildfires

Click to play video: 'Dramatic helicopter rescue of man and dog during California wildfires' Dramatic helicopter rescue of man and dog during California wildfires
Dramatic helicopter rescue of man and dog during California wildfires – Nov 20, 2018

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