California hires WAR ZONE DNA experts to identify remains of wildfire victims burned beyond recognition as death toll rises to 63 with 631 missing

Friday, November 16, 2018
By Paul Martin

Butte County hired pioneering Colorado-based Rapid DNA analysis company ANDE specializing in war zones and crime scenes
ANDE’s instruments set up in the filed can generate DNA IDs in under two hours
Traditional DNA analysis tools require samples to be set to a lab and take weeks to produce a match
Until this week, ANDE had never worked on a natural disaster
At least 63 people lost their lives, with another 631 residents reported missing in and around Paradise in Northern California

SNEJANA FARBEROV
DAILYMAIL.COM
16 November 2018

California authorities desperate to identify the remains of wildfire victims scorched beyond recognition in and around the ravaged town of Paradise have turned to a pioneering DNA analysis company specializing in war zones.

ANDE, the only Rapid DNA analysis company approved by the FBI for work on military, forensic, homeland security and intelligence projects, was hired by the Butte County Sheriff’s office to identify remains of some of those killed in the Camp Fire, the deadliest wildfire in California’s history.

At least 63 people lost their lives, with another 631 residents reported missing in and around Paradise, which was virtually destroyed by the wildfire that erupted a week ago in the parched Sierra foothills.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea has asked relatives of the missing to submit DNA samples to hasten identification of the dead. But he said some of those unaccounted for may never be identified.

Coroner-led recovery teams, cadaver dogs and a National Guard contingent scouring debris from the inferno the overwhelmed the Northern California town turn over tissue and bone fragments to the ANDE team, which is able to generate DNA IDs in under two hours through Rapid DNA analysis.

Traditional DNA analysis techniques require samples to be shipped to a laboratory and take weeks to produce a match. In addition, traditional tools sometimes fail when extreme heat damages tissue samples.

‘People have experienced so much loss and it’s not over yet,’ said ANDE’s chief communications officer, Annette Mattern. ‘To be able to at least help some families know what the situation is will hopefully help in some small way.’

To expedite the identification process, the Butte County Sheriff´s Office reached out to the Colorado-based company on Monday, and by Tuesday morning ANDE had set up a work site near Chico in Butte County, about 175 miles north of San Francisco. Chico, about 10 miles from Paradise, is the base for the search and firefighting operations.

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