As people start to move on after unimaginable loss, the Butte County Sheriff's Office has closed its missing persons hotline.

For weeks, families could call in to either get help finding their loved ones or report them missing. At one point, the search for the missing from the Camp Fire was daunting as more than 1,000 were unaccounted for.

While Butte County Sheriff investigators worked cases, so was a small team of people behind a computer screen.

"Just the crying out from people looking it's just breaks your heart and you just feel their need," said Rafaella Gerson over Facetime from Chicago.

Gerson is part of a team called the Search Squad. They go by "Search Angels" and they are known for reuniting adoptees with their biological families. The Camp Fire was the first natural disaster for which they volunteered.

"We all worked together to find people in Paradise. And now, when there are disasters, we will come together and search," Gerson said.

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"Angels" from all over the country and even Canada dove into Facebook groups like Camp Fire missing persons Paradise, California and they started their work.

It was busy for awhile, they found many people and so did the Butte County Sheriff's Office. One of the latest numbers released said more than 3,200 people were accounted for, 86 people died, and three are still missing.

"As a Search Angel, you get used to telling people the person they are looking for is deceased because it happens over and over again. This is different because the people searching actually knows them," Gerson said. 

The Camp Fire proved it was a different kind of search, but one that proved the Search Angels were needed.

"The need is never going to stop and people are always going to be out there," Gerson said.

Continue the conversation with Madison Meyer on Facebook.


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