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Camp fire: Number of missing drops to 49 people

Three weeks after the Camp fire tore through the Northern California towns of Paradise, Concaw and Magalia, destroying thousands of homes and killing 88 people, the number of individuals still missing now stands at 49, the Butte County Sheriff announced late Friday.

The newest tally was a welcome drop from a figure that at one point exceeded 2,700, leading many to fear the already record-high death toll would rise.

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Investigators were paring the list of those who were unaccounted for by calling friends and family who had first reported their loved ones missing, searching various databases to locate them, and checking social media accounts for activity, Sheriff Kory Honea said earlier this week.

Of the 88 people confirmed to have died, 41 have been positively identified and 42 have been tentatively identified.

Search teams have been combing through rubble for weeks in the aftermath of the fire, which was so hot that in many cases it left only bones and bone fragments to be recovered. The grim task was complicated further by rains that turned ash into a clay-like substance that had to be washed away to expose any remains.

The sheriff’s office said Friday that investigators had searched 18,000 structures and were no longer making their way through a list of locations, but that they may conduct additional searches as they receive new information.

Honea has acknowledged that some people’s remains might never be found.

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