By Christopher Weber/Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A massive wildfire that killed dozens of people and destroyed thousands of homes in Northern California has been fully contained after burning for more than two weeks, authorities said Sunday.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said the Camp Fire has been surrounded by firefighters after several days of rain in and around the devastated town of Paradise.
The nation’s deadliest wildfire in a century killed at least 85 people, and 249 are unaccounted for. The number of missing dropped in recent days as officials confirmed that more people were alive.
Crews continued sifting through debris and ash for human remains.
“It’s certainly good to be done with the containment of this fire, even though there’s still a lot of work to be done,” fire spokeswoman Jennifer Erickson said.
The blaze began on Nov. 8 in the parched Sierra Nevada foothills and quickly spread across 240 square miles, destroying most of Paradise in a day.
Nearly 19,000 buildings, most of them homes, are gone.
The firefight got a boost last week from the first significant winter storm to hit California. It dropped an estimated 7 inches of rain over the burn area during a three-day period without causing significant mudslides, said Hannah Chandler-Cooley of the National Weather Service.
In Southern California, more residents 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. The fire was fully contained Nov. 21 after burning for two weeks.
Three people died, and 1,643 buildings, most of them homes, were destroyed, officials said.
(Associated Press reporters Kathleen Ronayne in Paradise and Daisy Nguyen in San Francisco contributed to this report.)