(Reuters) - Paradise looked like a war zone when authorities decided to turn to a team of combat-trained DNA specialists to quickly identify human remains believed to be in the charred ruins left after a wildfire incinerated the northern California town.
For the grieving town, locating and identifying victims has become a top priority. With many of them likely burned beyond recognition, traditional DNA analysis techniques are inadequate, as they require samples to be shipped to a laboratory and take weeks to produce a DNA match. In addition, traditional tools sometimes fail when extreme heat damages tissue samples.
As a consequence, the Butte County Sheriff's office hired a company specializing in Rapid DNA analysis, a technique primarily employed in war zones and crime scenes to generate results in about two hours. For the company, Colorado-based ANDE, it was the first time it would assist in the aftermath of a natural disaster since its founding in 2000.
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