Joyce McLean said she had seen photos on social media of her burned home and knew one of the few things that survived was an American flag flying on a pole.
"We lost everything but the clothes on our backs," she said about their harrowing dash for safety.
In their search Wednesday, they found tools that belonged to Jerry McLean's father and a set of souvenir spoons that belonged to Joyce McLean's mother, but there was no sign of the precious items they had hoped to find.
"I don't think we're going to find the Bible, not much chance," said Jerry McLean, 72.
Joyce McLean said the thought of returning after the fire had made her nervous and emotional, but she wanted to at least recover the flag.
"I think something was telling us to be there," she said about the images she saw on social media. "The only thing that was standing was the flagpole, with the flag still flying, and our welcome sign with our name and address."
The couple is temporarily renting a house in the region, but they plan to again live in Paradise and have already bought a two-bedroom mobile home to replace the one they lost.
The communities will have very limited services for the immediate future, and authorities urged returning residents to bring food, water and fuel for vehicles.
They were also warned they should not move back into homes until ash and hazardous waste have been cleared and that rain could increase the risk of flash floods and mudslides.
The McLeans said they plan to keep searching the rubble for their precious possessions.
"Today was just kind of a come-to-Jesus meeting to see what's here, what's not, mostly not," Jerry McLean said.