Rivers Of Mud

Larry Collins details the massive mud slide and debris flows in Malibu and Laguna, CA and how emergency personnel reacted to the disaster.


On Monday, Feb. 23 1998, fire departments and rescue agencies braced as the worst El Niño -related storm of the current season bore down on Southern California. The region was already waterlogged after a week of pounding downpours that pushed annual rainfall totals to nearly double that of the...


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Reports indicate that communications were interrupted or overloaded, and the multitude of emergency calls strained the ability of dispatchers to assess the extent of the disaster. Lifeguards radioed for help, advising of "a very large slide" and that the "mudslide is growing." Throughout the incident, secondary slides and debris flows occurred, threatening the rescuers. Eventually, more than a dozen residents were rescued. Two occupants died in the mud, and their bodies were recovered the next day.


Larry Collins is an 18-year member of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. He is a paramedic and one of three captains assigned to USAR-1, the Urban Search and Rescue Unit of the department's Special Operations Division. A member FEMA's USAR Incident Support Team at the Oklahoma City bombing and Assistant Leader of the LACoFD FEMA USAR Task Force at the Northridge Meadows Apartment collapse in the Northridge earthquake, Collins is a member of the LACoFD Anti-Terrorism Work Group, serves on several local and national committees, and serves on the department's Swiftwater Rescue Teams.