Fire that led to deadly slides finally contained


MONTECITO, Calif. (AP) Developments on Friday, Jan. 12, about deadly debris flows that devastated Montecito, California (all times Pacific Standard Time).

  • 10:50 a.m.

The huge wildfire that led to this week’s devastating debris flows in Montecito, California, is finally 100 percent contained.

The U.S. Forest Service made the announcement after aerial surveys of the 440-square-mile (1,140-square-kilometer) scar left by the so-called Thomas fire.

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

It continued to smolder before a drenching Pacific storm hit bare hills and mountains this week, unleashing debris-laden flash floods that swept away homes and killed at least 17 people.

The Thomas fire was the largest wildfire in recorded California history.

  • 6:55 a.m.

Southern California authorities said the number of people missing since debris-laden flash floods smashed through the community of Montecito reached five, down from as many as 43 a day earlier.

Santa Barbara County spokeswoman Amber Anderson said the number dropped because people were located, but it could continue to fluctuate greatly.

She said some missing-person reports rapidly cleared while others take a long time to resolve.

The number of confirmed fatalities was at 17.

Anderson said the number of personnel searching ravaged neighborhoods has doubled over the past day to 1,250.

  • 11:31 p.m.

The oldest victim swept away in a California mudslide was Jim Mitchell, who had celebrated his 89th birthday the day before. He died with his wife of more than 50 years, Alice.

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

As their names and those of 14 other victims were released, crews kept digging through the muck and rubble looking for more people.

Santa Barbara fire Capt. Gary Pitney said the likelihood is increasing that rescue crews will be finding bodies instead of survivors at this point.