The entire town of Paradise, in California, has been wiped out by the fire, which started on Thursday and is still burning in surrounding communities. Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said the county was bringing in a fifth search and recovery team. An anthropology team from California State University, Chico was also assisting, because in some cases “the only remains we are able to find are bones or bone fragments.”
Honea said: “This weighs heavy on all of us, myself and especially those staff members who are out there doing what is important work but certainly difficult work.”
The victims have not yet been identified, but at least 110 people are still believed to be missing.
More than 6,700 buildings, almost all of them homes, have been destroyed.
Alex Hoon at the National Weather Servic said more firefighters were needed at the area on Saturday, as wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour are expected until Monday, which could aggravate the fire further.
Officials hope many of the elderly people on the list just unable to contact loved ones due to being without mobile phones.
Honea said the agency was also bringing in a mobile DNA lab and encouraged people with missing relatives to submit samples to help with the identification process.
The death toll so far means that this is the third-deadliest fire on record in California.
The blaze has spread 164 square miles (425 square kilometers) and has cost at least $8.1 million (£1,387,260) to fight so far, according to Steve Kaufmann, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Two people were also found dead in a wildfire in Southern California, meaning the death toll across the state is now at 25, after the fires tore through Malibu, which is home to some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
State officials reckon the total number of people evacuated from their homes around California is at more than 200,000.
The air in Paradise is still thick with smoke and people who stayed behind to try to save their home or who managed to get back to their neighborhoods found cars burned to a crisp and their homes reduced to rubble.
There was a break in the strong winds yesterday, but officials already know the gusts will be back today, so most evacuation orders remain in place.