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Not even habitable': Troops sift through ruins left by California wildfires as death toll climbs

A rescue worker uses a cadaver dog to search for human remains at a mobile home park that was destroyed by the Camp Fire on Wednesday in Paradise, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

U.S. National Guard troops have descended on the ruins left behind by California's deadliest wildfire on record, sifting through rubble for the remains of victims as the statewide death toll reached 59 on Thursday.

The town of Paradise was so devastated from the Camp Fire blaze north of Sacramento that one resident who lost his home said the place is "not even habitable."

What are the details?

PBS reported that 100 troops have joined coroner-led search-and-rescue teams with cadaver dogs to scour the area in and around Paradise for the 130 people still missing.

A majority of those feared left behind are over the age of 65, authorities said.

For the thousands left homeless and displaced, questions remain as to whether they'll even be able to return.

Jeff Hill works for the Paradise Irrigation District, and lost his house in the Camp Fire. He told NBC News he's uncertain about his future, given the level of destruction to the town.

"At this point, I'm taking it day-to-day," Hill said. "There are no stores left, no restaurants, nothing. If people did want to live there, there is nowhere to eat, no water or power. It's not even habitable. It's like we went back a hundred years. It's crazy."

Hill is staying with relatives in nearby Chico for the time being, and his employer told him and his colleagues that they would be out of work for weeks, possibly months until the utility was operational again.

Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long went further, saying, "You're not going to be able to rebuild Paradise the way it was."

"The infrastructure is basically a total rebuild at this point," he told NBC News.

While investigations are ongoing as to the cause of the Camp Fire, two dozen victims of the blaze filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against California's largest utility company — Pacific Gas & Electric — which they blame for the destruction.

"The Camp Fire was the result of PG&E's continued practice of prioritizing profits over safety, wherein they failed to properly maintain and inspect their power lines knowing that the likely result was a fire that would pose risk of serious injury and/or death, and damage to property," the suit alleges.

PG&E is still fighting roughly 200 lawsuits from last year's California wildfires. The company's stock was downgraded to neutral by Morgan Stanley analysts on Thursday, after losing 51 percent of its value just this week.

How are things going down south?

In southern California, the Woolsey fire still burns near Malibu, and was 57 percent contained as of Thursday morning, according to an incident update released by authorities.

As area residents are starting to return home, however, officials are being pressed about how resources were distributed in the fight to contain the wildfires, the Los Angeles Times reported.

At a town hall Tuesday evening, Malibu resident Paul Morra told authorities, "The Fire Department has been depleted. They are not fully resourced — and that's on you guys. We lost 19 homes in Corral Canyon. Not one engine was up there, and we had no water. No water. And that needs to be investigated."

Meanwhile, residents in the Malibu community of Point Dume are mulling over the idea of starting their own volunteer fire department, after several untrained civilians refused evacuation orders and instead stayed behind to successfully save area homes.

One last thing…
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