As Camp Fire reaches 100 percent containment, death count drops due to authorities’ error

The Camp Fire, which has ravaged Butte County and demolished the town of Paradise, reached full containment Sunday morning with the number of reported deaths now standing at 85.

An error came when two case numbers were added by mistake and the death toll that was reported at 87 around 8 p.m. Saturday. Officials revised the number to 85, according to a news release issued just after 9 p.m. Saturday by the Butte County Sheriff’s Office.

Authorities found the remains of three people on Saturday, but had previously added two deaths to the number in error, the Sheriff’s Office said in the statement.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told The Sacramento Bee that search crews had previously gone out to a fire-ravaged location and recovered remains from two people. Subsequent searches of the same location yielded more remains, likely from the same two people he said, but two new case numbers were assigned to them as well.

“What we’re dealing with here are remains that are almost completely consumed by fire,” Honea said.

It is unclear when the two erroneous case numbers were added to the death toll.

Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean said the state agency, which reported the erroneous figure on Saturday, had received information regarding the error on Saturday night via the news release from the Sheriff’s Office.

Containment came ahead of schedule, with Cal Fire previously projecting it would reach 100 percent by Friday. After two days of heavy rain, crews said late last week that their focus was on extinguishing hot spots and the last edges of the 153,336 acre fire.

The wildfire, which is the most destructive and deadliest in the history of California, has destroyed more than 13,000 homes and nearly 5,000 other structures, displacing thousands in the process, according to Cal Fire.

Butte County officials said last week that the search for victims continues. More than 500 people have participated for nearly two weeks in that effort. The fire ignited on Nov. 8 in the mountains near Pulga and quickly spread west, consuming much of the towns of Paradise, Concow and Magalia.

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