Church volunteers track down people still unaccounted for after Camp Fire

CHICO, Calif. (KGO) -- Many groups throughout Butte County are pitching in to help the thousands of people who've been displaced by the Camp Fire.

With the need for assistance so great, one church has stepped up not only to provide shelter but to find people who are still unaccounted for.

The East Avenue Church in Chico opened its doors as an emergency shelter the day the wildfire broke out on Nov. 8.

RELATED: List of people missing, resources for reporting missing people and pets in Butte County

Blair Maness called Paradise home for close to 22 years before flames overtook his house. He wouldn't be one of the countless survivors had it not been for his partner, Kim Comeau.

"She got me out, we barely outrun them flames. They came from all four sides at once," said Blair Maness.

With the couple's belongings destroyed, the church is now their sanctuary for the time being. "Since we've been here at the shelter, they've been great people, people I've never met in my life are new family members now," Maness said.

Thanks to the sheer amount of volunteers, the church has been able to provide daily hot meals and medical aid.

"People have walked in here and done an amazing job, not because I've done any of the organizing but because we gave them permission to come in and do what they do best," said church pastor, Ron Zimmer.

Organizers have also been working around the clock to track down people on the missing list.

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"We are cross-referencing every person that we have in our facility with people on that list. And last night, our medical team was actually seeing people one by one," said church volunteer Debbie Johnson. "They were successful in identifying 12 people on the list."

Eliminating names has been confusing since there have been duplicates and misspellings, according to sheriff officials.

"I think the list is going to be more about people not knowing how to reach each other," added Zimmer.

The Butte County Sheriff says they're collaborating with the Red Cross and other shelters to get a more accurate number of people still unaccounted for. It's been a painstaking process they acknowledge will take time.

See more stories, photos and videos on the Camp Fire in Butte County.
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