Bellevue firefighter at mudslide search: We are all family here now

OSO, Wash. -- Bellevue Fire Department Lt. Richard Burke said Sunday that progress is slow at the mudslide search near Oso because of the weather and muddy conditions, but that the firefighters and others from across the state are putting in long, physically demanding hours for one reason.

"Everbody's that our here, this has become their family," Burke said. "The town of Oso and the people that have been lost -- their family is huge now, because every firefighter, every volunteer, is out here for one cause and that's to support this community. It's become a very, very tight-knit effort. It's hugs and respect.

"It's the best part of being an American, to watch this happen," he said.

Asked about the enormity of the slide, which moved millions of feet of material for a mile or more, and the difficult task in searching through it all to try to find victims, Burke said, "You can watch it on the news ... but until you stand here and see how much this community has been impacted, it's just incredible. It makes you stop. I don't know that there's words to explain it. At some points, it's 70 to 80 feet deep from what it used to be. And we're going to go through it all for these families."

Burke said it could "take years to clean all this up" and put the nearby communities back together.