On November 8, 2018 the deadliest wildfire in the state’s history – the Camp Fire – swept through the town of Paradise, California, leveling the community and neighboring areas within a matter of hours. Before the fire was fully contained 17 days later, 85 lives had been lost. Conditions had conspired to cause an intensely hot firestorm. Recovery and identifications of the victims proved difficult.
A few days later, while the fires still burned, Dr. Richard Selden, founder of ANDE Corporation, flew to Sacramento to volunteer four Rapid DNA Identification systems and staff to aid Kim Gin, the Sacramento County Coroner, in the efforts to identify the dead. By comparing remains with reference DNA from family members, Rapid DNA allowed matches to be made in a matter of hours.
Ultimately about 85% of the victims were identified and returned to their families. The remaining victims either had no immediate family to provide reference samples, or the salvaged DNA was too badly damaged to produce CODIS Short Tandem Repeat profiles.
In January 2019 Dr. Selden was put in contact with the DNA Doe Project to explore using whole genome sequencing, bioinformatics, and investigative genetic genealogy to attempt to identify the remaining victims. Since that time DDP has been working with the Sacramento County Coroner and ANDE Corporation in this endeavor. Several additional identifications have been made as a result, with ANDE generously covering all costs.
DDP is honored to be a part of this important effort and shares the hope that ultimately every victim will be identified, and every family will have an answer.
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