More than 1,200 workers flooded into Montecito, California on Friday, as part of a massive search and cleanup effort into a small town first ravaged by a monster wildfire and now devastated by a mudslide that killed at least 18. (Jan. 12) AP
“We were searching houses, debris fields and basically anything they couldn’t visually clear, we would clear with the canines,” said Brent Brainard, Decker’s handler and captain with San Diego City Fire-Rescue. “Anything we searched, we were able to clear successfully.”
None of it was simple. They saw homes swept from their foundations from “the sheer force” of the river of mud that came down the mountains, he said. Others had collapsed, just their roofs sticking out of several feet of thick mud.
“It’s something you can’t describe,” Brainard said. “It’s total devastation.”
More: In mud-battered Montecito, back-to-back disasters ‘overwhelming’
More: Here are all the people who died in the California mudslide
Intense rain had pounded the fire-scorched mountains above Santa Barbara County and triggered the flood of mud and rocks. Hundreds of homes were destroyed or damaged and 19 people killed. Five people were still listed as missing Saturday night.
The canine teams worked in areas others couldn’t access as easily or quickly. In all, 18 canine teams trained at the Santa Paula-based National Disaster Search Dog Foundation were on the ground in Montecito this week.
That included Decker and Stella, a 10-year-old lab, both part of the California Task Force 8 San Diego FEMA team. They are trained to track live human scent and find survivors.
Friday’s mission was to clear the creeks and ravines now full of mud, boulders, shattered trees and anything else carried downstream in the storm. At the bottom of a steep slope, Decker strained at his leash until Brainard released him to search.
— Cheri Carlson (@vcCheri) January 13, 2018
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