The first significant rain in months in northern California helped firefighters battle the deadliest wildfire in the state's history on Wednesday, but raised the risks of flash flooding that could hinder teams searching for human remains.
Between 4-6 inches (15 cm) of rain was expected to fall through the weekend in areas around the town of Paradise, the community of nearly 27,000 people 175 miles (280 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco that was largely incinerated by the Camp Fire. The blaze killed at least 83 people, and 563 are still unaccounted for, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told a press briefing on Wednesday.
"The rain is a concern for us and there is the potential for mudflows," Honea said, adding that he would pull searchers out of areas if they faced any risk of being caught in mudslides.
The rain added to the misery of evacuees camped out in a Walmart parking lot in nearby Chico, where local residents donated freight pallets and tarps to help evacuees shelter from overnight temperatures just above freezing.
"I'll get a pallet and get my tent up off the ground," said Mitchell Manley, who evacuated from the village of Concow and managed to get his elderly mother out of nearby Magalia.
Warehouses were being opened up in Chico to provide evacuees protection from the cold and rain and to move them out of the Walmart car park, said Manley's partner, Carol Daugherty.