Although experienced pilot Matt Udkow has flown some extremely harried missions throughout his career, nothing could have prepared him for the undertaking of performing rescue flights in Montecito during the mudslides of this last month.
Matt has logged an impressive five thousand plus hours and even flew missions to rescue those trapped by Hurricane Katrina. However, the situation he and other pilots with Santa Barbara County Air Support Unit faced in Montecito were infinitely more imposing and arduous.
According to Matt, the “hard rescues’ were necessitated by rising flood waters which seemingly inundated residences and buildings alike. Residents were entrapped by the massive deluge of waters and debris from nearby homes and structures.
Mr. Udkow, who has an extensive piloting background after spending several years in the Navy And the Coast Guard said, “I’ve been flying a long time and this is definitely some of the most challenging, if not the most challenging, conditions that I’ve ever hoisted in.”
Mr. Ukdow, who recently joined the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, credits his fellow firefighters who facilitated the rescues by managing the hoist and were lowered to the ground with the impressive number of hosts and rescues they completed. Firefighters Glen Dupont and Bryce Wible were able to successfully complete 12 hoists and 6 rescues. Mr.Udkow was quoted as saying, “I think everyone that could have been saved was saved because of ground units and air units.”
Besides their helicopter, there were several other organizations involved in the harrowing mission to rescue those trapped by the tragic effects of the mudslides. An additional firefighting helicopter, Copter 3, plus Ventura County Squad 6, and a couple Coast Guard helicopters were engaged in the rescue efforts. Cumulatively, they were able to complete 26 hoists throughout the day and evening on that fateful day earlier this month.
It has been reported that air reserves rescued up to 131 civilians alongside dogs, cats and even birds. Not indicated in the totals are the hundreds of rescues successfully completed by firefighting crews on the ground.