Published Jan 12, 2018 at 6:35 AM | Updated at 3:17 PM PST on Jan 12, 2018
Search dogs and their handlers have been working tirelessly this week in knee-deep muck, looking for signs of hope in a bleak, desperate situation. As of Friday morning, 16 canine search teams were deployed in Montecito, slogging through mud to reach piles of debris during a week of heart-break and arduous work.
The post-storm search marked the second time in as many months that teams from the National Search Dog Foundation in Santa Paula -- about 40 miles east of Montecito -- faced a disaster in their own backyard. The dogs and staff members were evacuated during the Thomas fire, which scorched 282,000 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties and burned the training center's search simulation zone.
The dogs, many of whom arrived at the Southern California training center from shelters, and their handlers include a team that found a 14-year-old girl trapped for hours in mud and the debris of her destroyed house . Following a delicate rescue operation, she was pulled from the rubble -- a moment to hold onto in an otherwise heart-wrenching situation.
After hours of searching, the teams head back to the Handlers' Lodge at SDF's National Training Center. The dogs get a bath and rest before returning to Montecito.
Seventeen people have died. Five were listed Friday morning as missing.
Below, a look at the difficult conditions faced by search dogs and their handlers.