Incident commanders gathered their troops this morning before sending them out on their mission to find and rescue people who might be trapped in Montecito’s mudflow. Earl Warren Showgrounds was full of Cal Guard (the new name for the National Guard) carriers with six-foot-tall wheels to get through the thigh-high mud. About 700 rescuers were on the job from fire departments statewide, the Navy and Coast Guard, and the state Conservation Corps, though the mess hall cooks were told to prep for a thousand as more were expected to arrive today.
Nine of the rescuers are pairs of search dogs and their handlers, including Santa Barbara County’s Eric Gray and his dog, Riley. Six have come from Los Angeles County Fire, and one each from Orange County and Long Beach fire companies, the Search Dog Foundation stated.
The death toll stood at 17 this morning, with 28 injured and eight known to be missing, according to the morning update update. Homes destroyed were counted at 65 and those damaged at 446. Eight commercial buildings had been destroyed and 20 damaged. A full and accurate assessment will not be known until downed power lines are repaired and access restored.
FEMA officials declared on Wednesday evening that the flooding, mudflows, and debris flows directly related to the wildfires would be covered under the Thomas Fire disaster declaration. This should make state and local governments and certain private organizations eligible “on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by wildfires in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.”
Internet service has been down for many remaining in Montecito, with cell reception sporadic, and electricity nonexistent for about 1,350 homes as of Wednesday afternoon. Cox Cable stated workers were on standby to go into the area as soon as allowed. Further information is at @coxcalifornia.
As fire engines and giant troop carriers left Earl Warren for the day’s work between 8:30 and 10 a.m., traffic along Las Positas and Calle Real swiftly became clogged, slowing down their exit significantly. The public has been ordered to stay out of the areas of Montecito hardest hit by the mudflow to avoid getting underfoot while rescuers work. Major television broadcasters, however, have been setting up in Montecito yards, an incident official said. One with 15 reporters, producers, and crew members was a particular disturbance to muddy search crews.