Only a staircase remains of a two story building in Paradise, Calif., on November 17. Some residents were allowed to check out their property Wednesday. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Some residents of Paradise, a town that received heavy damage from the Camp Fire in Northern California, are returning to check on their homes after mandatory evacuations were lifted.
Residents and property owners in three zones -- the east side of town -- were allowed back in at 10 a.m. Wednesday, the Town of Paradise said in a news release. Restrictions for nonresidents will be lifted at 8 a.m. Thursday.
In all, 50,000 residents were evacuated from Butte County. Paradise's population is around 26,000.
"You don't really get the feeling until you see it for yourself, and your stomach drops when you see everything you own lying on the ground," Jeff Hill, 29, who works for the Paradise Irrigation District, said to NBC News.
He lost his home in the fire but plans to rebuild in Paradise.
"I've lived here my whole life, so I couldn't imagine going anywhere else," Hill said.
With fire and utitilies personnel still working in the area, town officials said "residents need to be aware that the areas being lifted may have very limited services. Prior to returning home, residents are encouraged to take steps to ensure they have food, water, and fuel for their vehicles."
The blaze began on the morning of Nov. 8 and wasn't fully contained until Nov. 25 -- becoming the most deadly and destructive wildfire in California history.
The fire scorched 153,972 acres and destroyed 13,972 residences, 528 commercial buildings and 4,293 other structures, according to Cal Fire.
Around 1,700 structures are standing in Paradise, officials said.
The average grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency is around $10,000, said
Kevin Hannes, deputy federal coordinating officer for the agency.
"I know what it's like to lose a house to a fire. I don't know what it's like to lose a whole town," Hannes said. "But I do know what it's like to build a whole town, because we've done it before ... This agency, in coordination with Cal OES, is here to ensure that not only Paradise [but] Concow, Magalia will rise from the ashes."
The death toll has stood at 85 this week with the unaccounted for individuals at 10 from more than 1,000. Thirty-six of the remains have been tentatively identified and 46 positively identified, according to the Butte County Sheriff's and Coroner's Office.