Forest Falls, Oak Glen and Seven Oaks on the east side of the San Bernardino Mountains were hit hard by the first tropical storm to hit California in 83 years.
San Bernardino County Fire flew helicopters into Seven Oaks today where many residents were trapped due to roads covered in mud and debris and even homes that were washed away. Firefighters airlifted 3-4 residents out at a time, bringing them into Angelus Oaks.
“It was just rain and it got stronger and stronger and by eight o’clock is when I started hearing the rocks and the boulders the size of cars bashing into each other,” said Seven Oaks resident, David Zwieback, who was evacuated Tuesday. “You could feel the whole house shake.”
Unfortunately, a neighbor of Tina Jerue and Zwieback is still missing, though firefighters continue to search for her.
“Three houses were completely washed away,” Jerue said. “Two neighbors were rescued.”
In the meantime, many residents, like Jerue and Zwieback, waited at the Oaks Restaurant for their pets, which couldn’t be taken on the helicopter. Firefighters had to hike the dogs out of the area.
“I’m so excited that they’re here and clearly, they’re in love with the gentleman who brought them up, the firefighter,” Jerue said when she saw her dogs. “I’m happy and they’re happy. So, all is good.”
It was a tough job for San Bernardino County Firefighter Zack Galban who was drenched in sweat and covered with dog hair.
“We actually surveyed the area about three times, scouted ahead to make sure,” Galban said of the route they hiked the dogs out on. “First, we were able to get to know the dogs, get them comfortable with us and as soon we knew they were comfortable with us, we were able to find the right people to handle them and get them across.”
Galban and other firefighters also worked to cut trees down and clear an area where the helicopter could land.
“Getting rid of anything that’s going to potentially spike from the rotor wash and just making sure it’s a good landing spot for the helicopter,” he explained.
Still, the next step for many of these residents is completely unknown.
“God only knows where we’re going to end up,” Zwieback said. “We don’t know.”
There is no timeline on when they’re going to clear the extensive damage done to the area, and fire officials say the massive amount of debris dumped by the mudslide is hardening in the beating sun, making it even harder to get through.
Crews are also working to construct a bridge over the Santa Ana River so that residents who refused to evacuate will be able to eventually get out of the area.