As flooding and mudslides swept away homes and prompted countywide rescues, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) quickly responded by deploying swiftwater teams and Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces to Santa Barbara County to aid in the emergency response efforts.
During the deployment, California personnel will use their highly-developed skills to assist emergency operations in and around the hardest hit areas of the state, conducting search and rescue operations.
Heavy rains, combined with burn-scarred areas due to the Thomas Fire, caused massive mudslides in the Montecito area of Santa Barbara County. Thousands of residents were evacuated, homes were destroyed or damaged, and roads were obstructed.
The Thomas Fire, which has burned more than 280,000 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, became the largest wildfire in modern California history and is still actively burning.
A strong low pressure system will continue to bring the threat for heavy rainfall and flooding of burn scars in the Southern California region, according to the National Weather Service. Rain is expected to diminish on Wednesday.
Cal OES prepositioned the Regional Urban Search and Rescue Task Force, a 29-member team from Santa Barbara County, to the Earle Warren Fairgrounds on January 8 in advance of the storms and are actively engaged now in response efforts.
The deployed Cal OES Swiftwater Flood Search and Rescue Team from the Long Beach Fire Department consists of 14 members and boats. The team was also mobilized January 8 from LBFD to the fairgrounds.
The 29-member Regional Task Force of Orange County Fire Authority mobilized to Santa Barbara, as did the 14-member Search and Rescue Team from the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
A total of three Type 1 engine strike teams and one Type 3 engine strike team are committed to the Santa Barbara County response, while two California National Guard helicopters with hoist capability are assisting in the rescue mission.
Since 1992, California-based US&R Task Forces have been deployed to a long list of state, national, and international disasters including the 1992 Hurricane Iniki, 1994 Northridge Earthquake, 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing, 2001 World Trade Center and Pentagon Terrorist Attacks, 2004 Hurricane Charlie, 2004 Hurricane Frances, 2004 Hurricane Ivan, 2005 Hurricane Katrina, 2005 Hurricane Rita, 2007 Hurricane Gustav, 2007 Hurricane Ike, 2012 Hurricane Sandy, 2010 Haiti Earthquake, 2011 Christchurch Earthquake in New Zealand, 2011 Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, and the 2015 Nepal Earthquake. In 2017, US&R teams were deployed to assist with multiple hurricanes and the Mexico City earthquake as well as statewide flooding.
Cal OES has activated the State Operations Center to provide assistance for response and recovery due to the mudslides in Santa Barbara County.
Cal OES Fire, Law Enforcement and Southern Region personnel are currently working with various response agencies to address all emergency management, evacuation and mutual aid needs.