At least 13 people were killed and homes were torn from their foundations Tuesday as downpours sent mud and boulders roaring down hills stripped of vegetation by a gigantic wildfire that raged in Southern California last month. Rescue crews used helicopters to pluck people from rooftops because debris blocked roads, and firefighters pulled a mud-caked 14-year-old girl from a collapsed Montecito home where she had been trapped for hours, per the AP. "I thought I was dead for a minute there," the girl could be heard telling rescuers as they pulled her free, reports KNBC-TV.
Most of the deaths were believed to have occurred in Montecito, a wealthy enclave of about 9,000 people northwest of Los Angeles that is home to such celebrities as Oprah Winfrey, Rob Lowe, and Ellen DeGeneres, said Santa Barbara County spokesman David Villalobos. At least 25 people were injured. The mud was unleashed in the dead of night by flash flooding in the steep, fire-scarred Santa Ynez Mountains. One Santa Barbara County official tells the Los Angeles Times of "waist-high" mudflows. Burned-over zones are especially susceptible to destructive mudslides because scorched earth doesn't absorb water well, and the land is easily eroded when there are no shrubs.