500 Christian Campers Being Rescued in California Mudslide, Parents Thankful

( [email protected] ) Aug 04, 2014 03:08 PM EDT
California Mudslide
An official of Forest Home Christian Conference Center inspects damage on its property in Forest Falls, Calif., on Sunday. (AP)

Around 500 children and adults are safely being evacuated after heavy rain and mudslides stranded them at a Southern California church camp on Monday, a spokesman for the San Bernardino County Fire Department told CNN.

According to a spokesperson for the San Bernardino County Fire Department, the Forest Home Camp , located east of Los Angeles, had been trapped behind a mudflow in Forest Falls, stranding staff and middle and high school students.

"All guests at Forest Home are safe and secure. The high school and junior high campers are enjoying the scheduled activities without interruption," officials said in a press release.

"We've been able to punch through that last wall of mud so that people on the other side can start making their way out of town," added fire department spokesman Ryan Beckers.

Forest Falls roads were "impassable due to mudflows" in Forest Falls and thousands stranded on Sunday after torrential rainfall, San Bernardino Fire Capt. Kyle Hauducoeur.

There have been no reported injuries or missing residents in the town, population 2,000, and damage to homes due to flooding has not been severe.

Crews used bulldozers and other heavy equipment to try to reach the campers, who were still trapped behind the mudflow late Sunday.

"There is no other way out of there. It's basically like a dead-end slot canyon," said Hauducoeur.

In other parts of San Bernardino County, one person was killed when their vehicle was swept off the road and into a creek by floodwater, county fire department spokesman Chris Prater said.

In Glen Oak, CA, 1,500 people were stranded due to flash flooding and high winds, said Dennis Mathisen of Cal Fire.

"Try to imagine the bands of rains from a hurricane -- that's what we're getting," Hauducoeur said. "The difference (is) it's hitting mountains. What was a dry riverbed could become a river 6 feet deep, 20 feet wide."

Officials are encouraging California residents to stay inside their homes and to call 911 if they need to be rescued.

Hauducoeur said two swift-water rescue crews are in the area, noting that firefighters expect to be working the Forest Falls area for the next three to four days.  

In the meantime, families of those attending Forest Home Camp are thankful for the San Bernardino Fire Department's efforts to save their children.

"Thank the Lord for those safety personnel who put their life on the line for our children," said Diana Lane of San Diego, CA, whose daughter Erika was among those trapped.

"We cannot thank them enough."