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Snapshot: S&T’s Rapid DNA Technology Identified Victims of California Wildfire

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The hours and days following a mass casualty event can be fraught with uncertainty and pain as families and loved ones wait for news on missing family members. Amid the chaos and devastation, medical examiners often provide closure as they identify victims in the aftermath, but their ability to do this quickly can vary depending on the size, scope, and type of disaster.

Such challenges were the case following the Camp Fire wildfire that killed 85 people and devastated communities in Paradise, Calif., in the fall of 2018. DNA analysis became the first resort as it provided identifying information in under two hours when dental records and fingerprints weren’t available.

With the help of Rapid DNA technology, medical examiners were able to provide quicker closure for many families as compared to the weeks or months it can take to produce results in a traditional forensic lab. Funded in part by DHS S&T, Rapid DNA technology positively identified 85 percent of the victims in the aftermath of the disaster.



U.S. Department of Homeland Security · · 202-282-8000