PARADISE, Calif. – 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 fire broke out Nov. 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.
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The county is providing masks, gloves and protective suits to reduce exposure to toxic materials.
Authorities also warned of an increased risk for flash flooding in the burn areas.