Southern California

Firefighters Rescue Girl Trapped for Hours in House Destroyed by Mudslide

The rescue was one of several by firefighters in and around the Santa Barbara County community of Montecito

A 14-year-old girl was one of several people rescued by firefighters who fanned out across a flood-ravaged Santa Barbara County community after a night of powerful downpours and mudslides.

The girl was trapped for hours in the home, destroyed by mud and debris flows that were powerful enough to move boulders, fire officials said. Firefighters slogged through deep mud to pull 14-year-old Lauren Cantin, covered in mud and taken away on a stretcher, from the rubble.

It was a moment to cherish in what was a devastating day for the community northwest of Los Angeles, where at least eight people were killed in the first major storm of the season in Southern California.

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Lauren was located with help from search dogs, who worked tirelessly alongside firefighters throughout the morning to find trapped residents. Firefighters heard Lauren's scream through the roar of pounding early morning rain.

"I thought I was dead there for a minute," she told rescuers as they lifted her from the debris.

She appeared alert and was communicating with firefighters as she was transported to a hospital. The rescue operation took about six hours as firefighters carefully worked their way through the rubble to reach Lauren and move her to safety.

"To be able to have her come out safely and as unscathed as she was, it was pretty phenomenal," said Andy Rupp, a Montecito Fire Protection District firefighter.

At least eight people were killed and homes in the Montecito area were swept from their foundations Tuesday when heavy rain sent mud and boulders sliding down hills stripped of vegetation by Southern California's recent wildfires. Rescue crews used helicopters to lift at least 50 people to safety because of blocked roads.

Several houses were destroyed, and residents were unaccounted for in neighborhoods hard to reach because of downed trees and power lines. The mud was reported to be up to 5 feet deep in places. 

Search teams, including search-rescue dogs, continued to look for victims into Tuesday evening.

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