Laguna Beach landslides

Laguna Beach Landslide: Marc & Val Respond

Incident Report from Marc Valentine, SDF handler, Montebello Fire Dept.

On Wednesday, June 1, 2005, a large part of Bluebird Canyon in Laguna Beach let go and started to slide downhill. All told, 22 homes were red-tagged and another 30 were yellow-tagged.

At about 12:30 p.m., Val [Marc’s Golden Retriever] and I received a request from Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) to deploy to the location as part of Orange County’s Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) response to the incident. The second canine team that also responded to the slide was Tony Zintsmaster and his dog Kaiser. The OCFA US&R response to the incident included three of OCFA’s Tactical Rescue Truck Companies, two Canines Teams, one Search Team Manager and two of OCFA’s USAR Task Force Leaders, along with other equipment.

We were met upon arrival by Battalion Chief Kramer, the TFL for CA-TF5. He told us that they needed the Canine Teams to search the 18 homes that had received the major damaged. Early on, Laguna Beach Fire had searched the houses but was unable to enter them due to the instability of some homes or the total collapse of others. The 18 homes that we were to search had only been searched by hailing at the doorways. The canines were to give a complete secondary search of all of these homes. We started searching just before 3 o’clock and completed it just after 5 o’clock.

The homes had been displaced down the hillside more then 100 feet with the ones at the bottom of the canyon on Bluebird Canyon Road having pushed up and over with the weight of the hillside coming down on them. Some of the homes were split in half and some were turned on there sides. Flamingo Road was near the top of the slide and a large portion of the road was displaced down the hill, mostly intact with sewer, gas and water lines, all of which had ruptured and spilled around the area.

For the homes that were hanging over the edge, we ran the dogs on long leads and harnesses after scouting out the homes for any unforeseen hazards. The search team worked very well together, sometimes running the two dogs on different floors at the same time. One of the only problems was the difficult pitch of some of the hard wood floors. Some of them were as great as 60 degrees. Traction definitely came into play on some homes but the dogs kept working and overcame all the obstacles this search presented.

We searched until we were sure that no one had been caught inside the wreckage. Val was full of energy throughout the search. He was completely focused, on task, and able to use everything he had learned to quickly and thoroughly search the area. This is when all the training pays off!