Montecito Rescue Mission Transitions to Recovery Efforts

An SUV carried an unknown distance downstream, left with orange search and rescue markings indicating whether survivors were found in the wreckage or not.
Brandon Yadegari

As emergency responders in Montecito switch from search and rescue operations to recovery efforts, a week and three days after the deadly storm, the number of personnel in the field has decreased from a high of 2,338 on January 14 to a current count of 865.

The cooperating agencies still involved include Cal Fire, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy, Santa Barbara Search and Rescue, and the American Red Cross, among others. Personnel continue to work 24-hours-on, 24-hours-off shifts.

Crews are continuing to search buildings and wreckage for victims, but the unstable environment, coupled with the staggering quantities of mud and debris in the area continues to make access difficult and progress slow. Workers are also challenged with the seemingly impossible task of sorting through and removing massive quantities of that debris and mud. Over 100 trucks are transporting mud to various beaches, either for sorting or with the expectation that the mud will be washed away in the tide.

While the number of professional emergency workers has decreased, the number of Santa Barbara and Montecito community members engaged in the relief effort has increased. Donation and volunteer opportunities span from private GoFundMe campaigns for victims and their families to aid initiatives by larger organizations such as the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.


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