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Wildfires are to blame for California's mudslides

December's devastating wildfires stripped the hillsides of vegetation and left the soil vulnerable to rains.

About 300 residents of Santa Barbara County were said to be trapped Wednesday morning after flooding and mudslides devastated the area Tuesday, leaving 15 dead and two dozen missing. Experts say December’s wildfires spurred the mudslides after leaving the area's soil burned and vulnerable to rains.

Just weeks before the mudslide in, the area experienced its largest wildfire on record, burning through a total of 273,400 acres and destroying more than 1,000 structures. Rescuers were trying to reach residents cut off by the debris left from the massive flooding and mudflow triggered by several days of heavy rain in the region. The rainfall accumulation reached up to an inch per hour, which is twice the amount considered enough to start a mudslide. Most deaths are believed to have occurred in the wealthy SoCal community of Montecito.