DARRINGTON — Police threatened to arrest Forrest Thompson, 18, on Sunday after he and a group of friends repeatedly disobeyed orders to stay away from the Oso mudslide site.
But this morning, under new standing orders for search-and-rescue volunteers desperate to find loved ones, people like Thompson and his group were allowed to go back to the site with firefighters.
Members of Darrington Fire District 24 took 25 of more than 100 people who volunteered to help search this morning to the site, dividing them up into five groups each supervised by a firefighter. Other volunteers are standing by in case they’re needed later in the day, but Darrington Mayor Dan Rankin said the city would not be taking any more volunteers.
Thompson and dozens of other Darrington residents had been returning to the site since Saturday’s mudslide against the orders of law enforcement. Thompson said he’d been frustrated that local fire and police officials barred so many from helping with the search for people missing in the mud, but appreciated the search-and-rescue compromise he took advantage of today.
“Right off the bat they should have had every one of the loggers here in there,” said Thompson, who works with logging companies in town. “Climbing across logs and mud all day is what I do for a living.”
Fire and police officials barred untrained volunteers before this morning, fearing the volunteers would then need to be rescued themselves at some point.
Thompson said that since Saturday, he’s marked several dead bodies and retrieved at least one that authorities later extracted from the scene. He and his friends have recovered several family photo albums, jewelry items and other sentimental possessions from amid the debris.
He’s gone through a crushed house owned by the parents of a friend, a Darrington High School class president who graduated with him last year. Thompson, just like almost everyone else in Darrington, knows somebody who is missing in the mud.
On Monday, Thompson’s team rescued a dog with broken legs, found pinned under a tree. The dog is now in a veterinary hospital in Sedro-Wooley.
“There are little air pockets everywhere,” Thompson said. “If a dog can still be alive, so can a person.”
Gov. Jay Inslee joined the Darrington Fire District’s meeting with the new volunteers this morning and said afterward that “this remains an aggressive rescue effort.”
More coverage of the mudslide can be found here.