"One of the things that I saw when I was up there is that there is so much debris in some of these areas that it's very hard to determine whether or not there might be human remains there".
All told, more than 8,000 firefighters statewide were battling wildfires that destroyed more than 7,000 structures and scorched more than 325 square miles (840 square kilometres), the flames feeding on dry brush and driven by blowtorch winds. It remains 25 percent contained.
Fierce Santa Ana winds continue to threaten lives and homes in Southern California's Woolsey Fire, which has killed two people so far. As of Sunday, it had burned 83,000 acres and at least 177 buildings and was 10 percent contained.
"This is not the new normal, this is the new abnormal", California Governor Jerry Brown said in a stark warning over the likely damaging effects of climate change.
"In many circumstances, without rapid DNA technology, it's just such a lengthy process", says Frank DePaolo, a deputy commissioner of the New York City medical examiners' office, which has been at the forefront of the science of identifying human remains since 9/11 and is exploring how it might use a rapid DNA device.
California has endured two of the worst wildfire seasons in its history over the past couple of years, a situation experts attribute in large part to prolonged drought across much of the Western United States.
Firefighters instantly pushed back on his rhetoric.
Almost 9,000 firefighters, many from out of state, were battling to suppress the Camp Fire, the Woolsey Fire and a handful of smaller Southern California blazes, backed by squadrons of water-dropping helicopters and airplane tankers. Three groups of forensic anthropologists were also called in to help, he said.
However, diminished winds and higher humidity levels allowed crews to make headway against the flames, fire officials said. "God Bless all of the victims and families affected".
The White House issued an emergency declaration for the state, saying the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will coordinate all disaster relief efforts.
"This is truly a tragedy that all Californians can understand and respond to", Brown said.