POSTED: OCT 11 2017 01:43PM PDT


UPDATED: OCT 12 2017 11:03AM PDT

SONOMA, Calif. (KTVU) - With officials saying Wednesday that 285 people remain missing in Sonoma County alone, it remains unclear just how many people are unaccounted for in the Northern California firestorm that is now among the deadliest in state history.

Officials said lists of missing persons could include duplicated names and people who are safe but haven’t told anyone. That could be because of the general confusion or because cellphone service is out across wide areas.

Some 77 cell towers were downed during the start of the fire and the state is working on creating mobile communication sites.

For family members searching for missing loved ones, the worry and fear is immeasurable. But they know they can’t just sit and wait for news, and many have taken on search efforts themselves. Some from other states.

From her home in New Hampshire, Elaine Warner and her family members have called police, a missing persons’ hotline and at least 20 hospitals looking for Bob and Ellen Pearson.

A relative has even gone cot to cot at shelters searching for the couple, who do not have cell phones.

No one has seen or heard from the elderly Santa Rosa couple since Monday morning when they were seen packing their purple Pontiac Vibe with belongings. An evacuation order had been issued and it appeared the Pearsons were ready to leave, Warner said.

“We are really worried. It’s really out of character for my mom to not call someone,’’ she said. “We are a very close family with communicating and we are all terrified at this point.”

Bob is 72 and Ellen is 76 and both are frail and have health problems.

Charlene Allen lives in Utah and can’t locate her mother, Norma Zarr, 61. A neighbor told Allen she saw the Santa Rosa woman Tuesday, but now her cell phone goes straight to voicemail.

She has only lived in her home for a month and Allen said she doesn’t know her mother’s roommates or how to reach them. Zarr has health problems so Allen has called at least 10 area hospitals in search of her.

While many people are filing missing persons reports with the sheriff’s office, asking for information on Facebook and calling hospitals and morgues in search of their loved ones, officials say they are doing everything they can to find the missing.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office has dedicated their entire investigative unit to finding missing people.

They have also set up a hotline at (707) 565-3856 to file a missing persons’ report.

Officials also suggest that people who are safe check in at

Concerned family and friends can search the list of those who have registered themselves as “safe and well” by clicking on the “search registrants” button. The results of a successful search will display a loved one’s first name, last name and a brief message.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.