A San Diego Fire-Rescue Department K-9 search and rescue team was called to assist emergency response efforts in Santa Barbara County on Wednesday.
At least 17 people were killed and several others injured after a heavy winter storm hit Monday night bringing ravaging floods and mudslide along with it.
The SDFD California Task Force 8 team is made up of an SDFD Task Force Leader, Search Team Manager, Logistics Manager and Canine Search Specialist, as well as a Canine Search Specialist form the Heartland Fire Department.
The team left the Midway District at around 3 p.m. after getting an official request for aid from authorities in Santa Barbara at around 1 p.m.
“The dogs are a very good tool for picking up scent, especially if people are trapped inside of a vehicle or a structure,” SDFD Batallion Chief and team Task Force Leader Dan Froelich said. “If there is air flowing through there we’re going to be able to pick up that scent and, hopefully, be able to get the rescue teams directed to where those folks are.”
Chief Froelich was unaware of the specific location details of the team’s mission.
The United States Coast Guard and National Guard, and other resources from all over the state have been called in to assist in the search and rescue mission.
“At least several dozen homes have been either destroyed or severely damaged, and likely many other ones are in areas that are as-yet inaccessible,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said. “Right now our assets are focused on determining if anyone is still alive in any of those structures that have been damaged.”
As of Wednesday, more than 100 people had been rescued or evacuated by helicopter or on the ground. The toll for the missing has yet to be determined.
The peak of the rainfall came at around 3:30 a.m. Tuesday — the city of Montecito recorded a half inch in a 5-minute span and Carpenteria saw almost an inch fall in 15 minutes — and the vegetation that once covered the slopes and foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains scorched by the Thomas Fire wasn’t there to catch it or slow its rush toward the communities below.
The fire-scarred land is also easily erodable, contributing to the thick mudslides forceful enough to sweep homes from their foundations and float cars down neighborhood blocks.Link.