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Yarnell Hill Fire: Some homes destroyed are unidentifiable

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© (Courtesy: George DeLange) © (Courtesy: George DeLange)
© (Courtesy: George DeLange) © (Courtesy: George DeLange)
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WICKENBURG, AZ (CBS5) -

Evacuations remain in effect as firefighters contain the last edges of the deadly Yarnell Hill fire in Yavapai County. 

Hundreds remain separated from their homes and many still don't know what damage they will find when they are allowed back into Yarnell.

"[Incident managers] told me the house was OK, that no damage had happened to it," George DeLange said. "All of the pictures show that it had burned down."

DeLange, like many Yarnell homeowners, is relying on helicopter video and pictures of the fire's destruction to identify the condition of his home. 

"I don't think I have a home there at all," he said.

Although an Arizona Incident Management team lists his home as one of those unharmed, the list of damage is still unclear.

"It is very difficult," Yarnell Fire Chief Jim Koile said. "In a lot of cases there are no addresses left and all there is just rubble."

The conditions are making it difficult for crews on-site to relay any reliable information back to those evacuees stationed more than 10 miles away.

"You really can't say how many homes were damaged so that's going to take more time for that to happen," Koile said.

Homes aside, there's a growing frustration shared by many of those evacuated. DeLange believes that damage could have been prevented. According to him, crews did not immediately respond to the initial fire, believed to have been started on June 28 by lightning.

"I think it could've been [prevented]," DeLange said. "Had they reacted immediately instead of taking so long to react."

Initially, crews focused on the fire's movement toward the community of Peeples Valley, north of Yarnell. When winds shifted, the fire quickly spread southeast toward Yarnell and DeLange believes incident managers were caught off-guard.

By the time he was evacuated, flames were at his doorstep.

"I was scared," DeLange said. "Sheriff's deputies came knocking on my door and said, 'You have to get the hell out.'"

He had five minutes to pack up his car and leave.

In the following hours, more than 100 homes were lost and 19 firefighters died.

"Property can always be replaced but those lives, that's the part the really hurts me more than anything else," DeLange said.

Nearly 600 firefighters continue to work near Yarnell as the wildfire continues creeping, smoldering, and torching single trees. 

Utility companies are in the area of Yarnell to rebuild, but residents are still restricted. 

As of 3:30 p.m. MST July 5, the fire was 80 percent contained.

Copyright 2013 CBS5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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