Crews dug away at masses of mud, boulders and debris with earth-moving machines and shovels Saturday in a California town ravaged by mudslides, hoping to find seven people still missing in a disaster that has already claimed at least 18 lives.

“We’re going to tear them apart piece by piece and search each pile thoroughly and make sure there’s nobody in there,” Henzgen said.

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Each member of his team is given a section and must reduce any piles to ground level.

The so-called Thomas fire, which led to the floods, was declared fully contained Friday. It erupted Dec. 4 in Ventura County and destroyed more than 1,000 structures as it swept through the city of Ventura and then threatened Carpinteria, Summerland and Santa Barbara. At 440 square miles, it became the largest wildfire in California records.

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