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Residents head back into California town levelled by wildfire

AP  |  Paradise (US) 

Nearly four weeks after the devastating blaze levelled her town, was allowed back to return to her home in Paradise, where the first thing she saw was her son's charred tricycle in the front yard.

Christensen was among hundreds of residents who were allowed back into neighbourhoods on the east side of town for the first time since the November 8 blaze, which killed at least 85 people and destroyed about 14,000 homes.

"It's unbelievable. You know, I never thought it would happen to me," said Christensen, 34, surveying how little was left.

She had moved to about a year ago and lived with a couple that were like grandparents to her son.

"Everything I worked so hard for is gone."

The first thing she saw as she pulled in was her 2-year-old son's tricycle, its tires melted and its charred.

She found a safe with melted jewelery inside.

She found remnants of porcelain dolls that her grandmother had given her every year for

"I lost my kid's handprints and footprints from when he was born," she said.

"This is all stuff that can't be replaced."

Some residents have been allowed back into nearby communities in the fire zone, but Wednesday marked the first time residents of got to see firsthand what was left of their town of 27,000 people, which was hit the hardest by the blaze.

Police said that areas home to 4,700 people were reopened but it wasn't clear how many people were there.

Many survivors have scattered to homes of friends and family in other parts of

More than 50,000 people in Paradise and the neighbouring communities of Magalia and were forced to quickly flee the towering, wind-driven flames that charred an area about the size of 240 square miles (622 square kilometers) and became the deadliest US wildfire in at least a century.

Authorities said 10 people were still unaccounted for.

Earlier in the day, a long line of cars waited in a cold drizzle at a checkpoint to enter areas where evacuation orders had been lifted.

Crews in yellow slickers were still clearing debris from burned homes and removing trees from streets littered with melted plastic trash cans and hollowed vehicles on tireless rims.

The communities will have very for the immediate future, and authorities urged returning residents to bring food, water and fuel for vehicles.

said the utility has 4,000 people in the area working to restore electric and to those who can receive it.

He said the utility hopes to restore electrical service by the end of the month and gas by the first quarter of next year.

Residents returning Wednesday were given kits with gloves and hazmat suits and warned that they should not move back into homes until ash and hazardous waste have been cleared, and that rain could increase the risk of floods and mudslides.

of Chico came to support Christensen, a friend, as she sifted through the remains of her belongings.

Rogers believes she found the remains of Christensen's cat, Marble, under what used to be her friend's bed.

"I don't want her to look. It's just too much, it's just too much," Rogers said, sobbing.

"I've got to be strong. I've got to do this for her."

Rogers buried the cat's remains in the front yard.

Residents were warned they should not move back into homes until ash and hazardous waste have been cleared, and that rain could increase the risk of floods and mudslides.

Christensen said she is not sure of her future plans but feels so much loyalty for her town that recently she got a tattoo that reads, "Love is thicker than smoke," and below that on her arm: "Paradise Strong.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, December 06 2018. 14:30 IST