DNA Samples Needed to Identify Camp Fire Victims

BUTTE COUNTY -- With each set of human remains recovered from the ashes left in the Camp Fire’s wake comes a mystery and a challenge to identify someone using just small bits of flesh and bone.

"The victims are coming in in all different states and that’s a really difficult thing to hear and to say but this is a really difficult situation," said Sacramento County spokesperson Kim Nava.

All remains found in Butte County are put into refrigerated trucks and transported to the Sacramento County Coroner's lab.

Nava said this assignment is demanding.

"Sacramento County Coroner has never had anything like this before. I believe the county coroner said the most that they’d ever received before was five at a time," Nava told FOX40.

As of Monday evening, the fire's death toll reached 79 — and it is expected to keep rising.

"We actually are able to handle the large number," said Annette Mattern. "We came in expecting that the load was going to be tremendous."

Mattern is with Ande, the DNA identification company Butte County has contracted to handle the remains.

"We have all of these remains coded and no families to connect them to," Mattern said.

She said the company thought it would be difficult to collect DNA from remains that were so badly burned. But they have been able to create a DNA fingerprint from almost all of the remains collected.

The real challenge, Mattern says, is they need DNA samples from living family members so they can cross match them and identify whom each set of remains belongs to.

"It’s just kind of blowing everybody away because this was not the problem we anticipated," Mattern said.

It could be a difficult task for a family to submit a DNA sample if they may be holding onto hope their loved one is still missing. However, it's a plea officials have to make.

FOX40 has learned Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea will be discussing the DNA collection process Tuesday and will address the best methods for families to submit their DNA.

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