Amy Sheppard packs her belongings into a plastic garbage bag as rain drips around her, readying to move on from a field by a Walmart where thousands of evacuees had taken refuge from a deadly Northern California wildfire.
Sheppard, 38, her sister and niece, who is 1, are looking to move into a dry hotel after camping in the field for four days. They lost their home in Magalia and the jewelry-maker tears up as she thinks about what's next. "This rain is making it so hard," she said.
Rain falling Wednesday in some areas of Northern California could help crews fighting a deadly wildfire. But it could also raise the risk of flash floods, complicate efforts to recover remains and make life even more difficult for people like Sheppard who have nowhere to go.
The 151-square-mile (391-square-kilometer) Woolsey Fire in the Los Angeles area was almost entirely contained after three people were killed and more than 1,600 structures destroyed. In Northern California, the wildfire that started two weeks ago has torched an area in Butte County about the size of Chicago — nearly 240 square miles (622 square kilometers) — and was 85 percent contained. A spokesman for the Governor's Office of Emergency Services says state officials will start removing hazardous waste from the burn area "beginning next week." "This will take several months," Eric Lamoureux said. "That ash is still toxic."
Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made a surprise visit to weary firefighters on Wednesday, providing encouragement and helping serve breakfast. "I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate all the work that you do," he told firefighters during a brief speech. The 71-year-old actor also slammed President Donald Trump for blaming the wildfire on poor forest management. He told firefighters, "you are tough to not only fight the fires, but you are tough to listen to all this crap." Officials said 563 people were still unaccounted for.
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for Paradise and nearby communities and for those areas charred by wildfires earlier this year in Lake, Shasta, Trinity and Mendocino counties. Butte County officials said all students will be able to return to school on Dec. 3.