Many of the search dogs involved in the 1/9 Debris Flow rescue efforts in Santa Barbara County were trained in Ventura County before part of their training center was lost in the Thomas Fire.
The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation is a Santa Paula-based non-profit that rescues and trains dogs to find people buried alive in disasters. Its 125-acre National Training Center opened just three months before the Thomas Fire.
Rhett Mauck with SDF says while the main buildings are still standing, several parts of the training center were destroyed, most notably Search City.
“It’s a one-acre mock city that was built to mimic a real world deployment, and that was lost in its entirety,” he says.
Mauck says adjustments had to be made to the training, but the dogs are resilient.
“They just never quit. They just really want to do this type of work. It’s just play to them. And we want to make sure to give them that opportunity,” he says.
The full recovery cost is about $2.5 million. It’s expected to be rebuilt by the end of the year.