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Disaster impacts crews working on recovery efforts - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Disaster impacts crews working on recovery efforts

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For nearly a week crews have been working 24 hours a day to comb through the destruction left behind by mud and debris slides.  The destruction has not only impacted residents, but the emergency crews as well.  

"It's devastating," Doug Thomas, Santa Barbara Police Chaplain, said reflecting on the aftermath. 

More than 2000 crew members have spent days sifting through remnants of once bustling homes.   Some of those homes familiar to the emergency workers.  "Houses that I've been in as a kid are now gone.  They're not even there anymore," Thomas says.

Thomas is caring for first responders of the disaster, offering spiritual guidance and support.  The disaster, he says, has been tough on all involved.

"Every first responder is human and they're all feeling the sadness, they're all feeling the shock.  They're all feeling everything that we are," Thomas says.  Thomas has been on major disasters, like Hurricane Katrina, and says the damage in Montecito, though on a smaller scale, is just as intense.

Thomas explained that as first responders and emergency crews work, they suppress their reaction to the disaster.  It's only once they've had time to step away that they begin thinking through what they saw and experienced.

And Dr. Laura Ciel, a licensed psychologist helping victims of the disaster, echoes that.  "It's once the action stops and there's a little bit of a quiet moment that it hits them."

Those impacted need counseling and support, but those responding need support as well.  "They need to know they don't need to hold it together and they need to know they can ask for help," Dr. Ciel said.

At various stations for emergency crews, comfort dogs and support like Thomas are available.  Soon, there will be a major debrief for emergency crews to begin the healing process.  "Everybody involved is emotional and that's just part of what we do," Thomas says.

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