A Southern California real estate professional perished tragically in the mudslides last week, one of more than 15 victims of the latest catastrophe to strike the state.
Rebecca Riskin, of Riskin Partners in Montecito—known as the “first lady of luxury real estate”—was killed as a result of the ensuing flood and mudslides in the Thomas Fire‘s wake, Riskin Partners confirmed in a release on Thursday. Riskin was a longtime Montecito resident, responsible for over 470 transactions totaling $2.17 billion, according to the release.
“The pinnacle of Rebecca’s life’s work and her lasting legacy lies in Riskin Partners and our enduring commitment to selling Montecito real estate,” said Dina Landi, managing partner of Riskin Partners. “We plan to continue Rebecca’s legacy and love for real estate with the same level of excellence, experience, and service that Rebecca so effortlessly embodied.”
Riskin is survived by her husband, Ken Grand, and a son and a daughter, as well as other extended family members.
(At press time,) the mudslides have claimed the lives of 17 people and destroyed 100 homes, reports the Wall Street Journal. Mudslides commonly occur post-fire season when the land has been stripped of vegetation, allowing water to quickly flow down hills in under 30 minutes of torrential downpour.
This incident, however, has been one of the more destructive. According to CAL Fire, Gov. Jerry Brown ordered mandatory evacuations for areas below the Thomas, Whittier, Sherpa and Rey fire burn areas last week, and multiple areas were under voluntary evacuation orders. But unlike the fires, which take more time to reach the communities within the hills, the mudslide happened quickly, leaving residents with less time to prepare.
Controversy surrounds the state’s preparedness, as residents report confusion when it came to delineating the mandatory and voluntary evacuations zones. Residents did not have time to make a decision about staying or going, and confusion about whether their area was in immediate danger could have played a role in the only 200 individuals (reported by WSJ) that heeded warnings to leave the Montecito area.
The heavy rainfall has tapered off, taking with it the risk of additional mudslides. Multiple rescue teams have been deployed. The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) reports it deployed a 14-member Swiftwater Flood Search and Rescue Team from the Long Beach Fire Department last week, along with others.
Multiple residents are still reported missing, but the rescue efforts are underway, having rescued over 20 injured or stranded residents (at press time). The WSJ reports that helicopters are airlifting people off rooftops, stating that a real estate agent was found alive, hanging from a tree branch, after his partner assumed worse hours earlier. Another real estate agent, Marco Farrell, survived the ordeal after he stepped outside to discover the oncoming mudslide and tried to warn neighbors, reports ABC News.
It is too early to assess the full scope of property damage or the impact on pending real estate transactions, but the CAL OES Twitter account reports that the mudslides lifted entire homes off their foundations. Mike Eliason, a spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, told the New York Times that “Some single-story homes were obliterated, just wiped off the foundation. Others had holes blown through from boulders.”
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