Amy Sheppard packed her belongings into a plastic garbage bag as rain dripped around her, readying to move on from a field by a Walmart where thousands of evacuees had taken refuge from a deadly northern California wildfire.
Sheppard, her sister and one-year-old niece were looking to move into a dry hotel after camping in the field for four days. They lost their home in Magalia, California, and the jewelry maker teared up as she thought about what was next.
“This rain is making it so hard,” the 38-year-old said.
Rain falling on Wednesday in some areas of northern California was expected to help crews fighting a deadly wildfire.
However, it could also raise the risk of flash floods, complicate efforts to recover remains and make life even more difficult for people like Sheppard who have nowhere to go.
Heavier rain was expected later in the day in the burn area, which is about 225km north of San Francisco, where the Camp Fire has killed at least 83 people, including two victims who were found on Wednesday in burned homes.
The blaze also destroyed more than 13,000 homes.
Officials said that 563 people were still unaccounted for.
“The rain is really a double-edged sword for this fire,” California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Rick Carhart said.
Searchers have “been able to sift through this really fine ash, and when rain gets onto that really fine ash, it turns it into sort of a muddy muck and makes it a lot more difficult,” he said.
The wildfire that started two weeks ago has torched an area in Butte County about the size of Chicago — nearly 622km2 — and was 85 percent contained.
California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services spokesman Eric Lamoureux said that state officials would start removing hazardous waste from the burn area “beginning next week.”
“This will take several months,” he said. “That ash is still toxic.”
Former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday made a surprise visit to weary firefighters, providing encouragement and helping serve breakfast.
“I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate all the work that you do,” he told firefighters during a brief speech.
The 71-year-old actor also slammed US President Donald Trump for blaming the wildfire on poor forest management, telling firefighters: “You are tough to not only fight the fires, but you are tough to listen to all this crap.”
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