Rapid DNA analysis used to identify Camp Fire victims

Rapid DNA analysis used to identify Camp Fire victims

BUTTE COUNTY, CA (KGO/CNN) - Hundreds of people remain unaccounted for in Northern California’s devastating Camp Fire.

But officials hope DNA testing will give people answers about their missing loved ones.

It's a taxing process, recently complicated more by the rain.

A crew from the Santa Barbara area is looking for remains and placing flags in questionable areas.

If they find something, it ends up processed on a swab and inside a tube.

Jim Davis is with the company using rapid DNA to identify fire victims.

“The only way we can identify those people is to have family members submit reference samples so we can match the two,” said Davis who is the ANDE chief federal officer.

He should have been busy taking mouth swabs but no one had showed up yet.

Some 68 family donors visited the center the day before and they need hundreds more for DNA comparison.

Maria Shahaid wishes she could do it for her friend from church.

"Nobody has heard from him, but we have no names of relatives or nothing," she said.

Here’s a bit on how it works.

Once the DNA chip is in the machine, results are provided within two hours.

Officials said this is the first time this process has been used in a mass casualty situation.

"There are people out there who have loved ones who are among the dead at the morgue that we have not been able to identify," Davis said.

Mouth swabs can be taken at any police station in the country.

Still, some are hesitant.

"As we've collected samples from people, we see this emotion that comes with finally accepting the possibility that their loved ones are gone," Davis said.

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