SAN DIEGO – An urban search and rescue team from San Diego left for Santa Barbara Wednesday to help in the Montecito mudslides.
The team is made up of four individuals from San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, a task force leader, search team manager, logistics manager and two canine search specialists. One of the canine handlers is from Heartland Fire Department.
“We got the call about noon today,” said Battalion Chief Dan Froelich. “We’re getting the opportunity to help our neighbor we’re going to go up there and do our best.”
The fire-ravaged zone has once again been struck by disaster, strong rains Tuesday pummeled the area, turning land charred by the Thomas Fire into massive mudflows.
Rivers of mud have destroyed dozens of homes, many people are either trapped or missing.
This is where Decker and Stella, the two Labrador retrievers with the team will step in.
“They can search everything from a building collapse to a canyon to a mudslide,” said Brent Brainard, canine handler. “When they’re searching if they come across a scent they can’t account for then they’ll start alerting.”
Regular search teams take hours to clear a disaster zone, but canine teams can get the job done in minutes.
“I know that my dog and Stella here, we’re going to go up and we can do it effectively can do it quickly and if we’re in the right place at the right time we can effect a rescue,” said Brainard.
“If there are people that need to be rescued, we’re able to assist in that and if not we’re able, then we’ll come home safely,” said Froelich.
Tuesday night, a strike team from San Diego was also activated.
SDFD will send one brush engine to Santa Barbara as part of a Type III strike team. This apparatus is from the California Office of Emergency Services (OES) brush engine and has four crew - a captain and three firefighters.
A Type III team is made up of five brush engines. This strike team’s leader is a battalion chief from Escondido Fire Department. The other brush rigs come from other agencies in the San Diego region.