What happens when someone is reported missing in the fire?

Officials break down what happens when a person is reported missing in the midst of wildfire rescue efforts.

This afternoon, Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano confirmed that 15 people are dead after several wildfires engulfed hundreds of thousands of acres across several counties in Northern California.

Giordano also said 57 of the 240 people reported missing were found, which leaves more than 180 people still unaccounted for. 

The list of people missing is made up of names that have been provided to law enforcement and emergency management agencies in the area by concerned parties, such as friends and family members. 

Sonoma County Sheriff spokesperson, Sgt. Spencer Crum said violent crime detectives are currently investigating the names of people who make up the missing persons list, which he assembled just last night.

"Knocking down the list," he said, is the primary priority of his agency at this point. 

They are attempting to reach those people via phone, social media and in evacuee shelters across the affected areas. Once it is safe, investigators will visit the neighborhoods where the missing people live.

However, many of the homes have been burnt to the ground without as much as a house number or a standing mailbox to locate an address and making it nearly impossible to identify or even find human remains. Crum said they have discussed bringing cadaver dogs to the devastated areas.

"One of the things that we ask (people making the reports) to sign (in Sacramento) is a release of medical and or dental records. If a person is found, to help with identification purposes," said Sergeant Shaun Hampton, a public information officer at Sacramento County Sheriff Office.

I asked Sgt. Crum why the Sheriff's Department is maintaining the names on the list private. I imagined that releasing would engage the public's assistance in crossing out names of people who are safe and thereby loosen up necessary resources to find people who are actually missing.

He also added that they are handling each case as any other missing persons investigation and therefore keeping information controlled. They don't want to concern friends and family members of people on the list, basically until there is cause for concern.  

Crum said he will run the idea of opening up the list by the administration. 

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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