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)
CAMARILLO, Calif. — With one word, Decker jumped from boulder to boulder, sniffing around fallen trees and pieces of debris as he climbed over a mud-soaked bank in Montecito.
As rescue efforts continued following Tuesday’s mudslide, the 7-year-old dog searched for any survivors still trapped in wreckage from the massive debris flows that slammed into the community. He bounded down a creek undeterred by the mud that clung to his coat and swallowed his paws.
“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.”
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.