California Mudslides: 18 Dead, 7 Missing, However Thomas Fire, State’s Largest Ever Is 100 Percent Contained

012017-sycamore-canyon-debris-rc-1000

At least 18 people were killed and at least five are still missing in the devastating mudslides plaguing Southern California, local authorities said Friday.  The latest person found dead was Joseph Bleckel, an 87-year-old who was found by a search team in his home Friday morning. Bleckel was among those on the missing persons list, according to Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown.

 Boulders block a road after a mudslide in Montecito

But during a later news conference, Brown also announced the recovery of resident John Keating, 53, who only moments before was still categorized as missing.

“He is in an out-of-area hospital being treated,” Brown told reporters. “So our missing list is down to five.”

Many residents in Montecito were under orders of evacuation as crews continued to search for missing victims, as well as repair power, water and gas lines and clean up massive quantities of debris. More than 1,200 workers were said to be at the scene.

The area northwest of Los Angeles is home to celebrities such as Rob Lowe, Ellen DeGeneres, Jeff Bridges, Tab Hunter and Oprah Winfrey.

 

Even those who didn’t lose their homes were told to leave for up to two weeks so they wouldn’t interfere with the rescue and recovery operation.

 

Brown expanded the public safety exclusion zone Thursday to encompass most of Montecito, meaning that even those who had previously remained in the area were forced to leave. Those who didn’t comply would face arrest.

 

The U.S. Forest Service announced Friday that the Thomas Fire, the largest wildfire recorded in state history, was officially 100 percent contained, confirmed by aerial surveys of the charred 440-square-mile area.

 

Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy:  AP
Follow us on Twitter @HighlightHwd or @LightfootinHwd