As California mudslide death toll hits 18, crews keep up the search

Santa Barbara County Fire Search Dog Reilly looks for victims in damaged and destroyed homes in Montecito

Santa Barbara County Fire Search Dog Reilly looks for victims in damaged and destroyed homes in Montecito

Of the 18 confirmed victims, the oldest was Jim Mitchell, who had celebrated his 89th birthday the day before the mudslide.

Riskin spent 37 years in the industry and rose to prominence selling Montecito's most distinguished properties and building up her firm, an affiliate of Village Properties Realtors comprised of five highly-skilled agents, including her own son Robert.

The youngest, 3-year-old Kailly Benitez, was one of four children killed.

Rescue workers in helicopters and high-wheeled military vehicles, some with search dogs, were deployed in the hunt for the missing in a disaster zone littered with the remnants of hundreds of damaged or destroyed homes.

"At this moment, we are still looking for live victims", Santa Barbara fire Captain Gary Pitney said.

'The likelihood is increasing that we'll be finding bodies, not survivors. "You have to start accepting the reality of that".

The monsoon-like rain was terrifying enough, but when David Weinert saw the house across the street erupt in flames fueled by a severed gas line he knew it was time to abandon his Montecito home. None of the adult dead shared their last names.

All of those killed died of "multiple traumatic injuries due to flash flood with mudslides", according to the Santa Barbara County Coroner's Office.

The fire erupted December 4 in Ventura County, destroying hundreds of homes before it spread into Santa Barbara County and threatened more communities including Montecito.

A statement said: "The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office is asking for the community's help in locating several missing persons related to the January 9, 2018 storm incident".

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"We were able to find people", Anderson said, but added that the number could continue to fluctuate greatly.

"I've never been so close to a fire in my whole entire life, then this", she said.

Among the searchers were more than a dozen firefighters who climbed through rubble in the backyard of a mansion that had been torn apart.

Rescuers have been probing thick muck, swollen creeks and tangled trees with poles, with search dogs also hunting for possible survivors. Two black Labrador retrievers swam around a debris-filled swimming pool, trying to pick up any scent.

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This was the first notable rain event during the region's rainy season, and the first time heavy precipitation fell since a series of large wildfires scorched hundreds of square miles. Santa Barbara County's fire chief said nearly the entirety of Montecito, except for a small section in the southeast, were under mandatory evacuation orders as of 6 p.m. local time.

"Our home has been severely damaged, but we are safe, and so thankful for that and for the first responders who are working tirelessly to save people", Bridges tweeted. The roofs of some homes in canyon runoff areas were encased in mud, which has now dried.

Sheriff's deputies also knocked on doors in the mandatory evacuation area to warn residents to leave.

Many residents in Montecito were under orders of evacuation as crews continued to search for missing victims, as well as fix power, water and gas lines and clean up massive quantities of debris. The two had traveled to Italy for five weeks with Josie's children previous year.

A resident said: "It looked like a World War I battlefield". I'm devastated for the families who lost loved ones.

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