LOCAL L.A. Now

TV news employee rescued after being trapped in waist-deep mud

A TV news employee trying to report from the scene of an unstable Azusa hillside Friday got stuck in waist-high mud and had to be rescued. 

The man was reporting in the hillside above the home of Dennis Sanderson on Ridge View Drive when he got stuck in the mud. Sanderson aided authorities in the rescue.

According to Sanderson, the news employee had intentionally waded into a pool of mud Friday afternoon to demonstrate how thick it was. A rescuer could be seen using a shovel. 

[Updated, 9:46 p.m.: Fire officials said they believe the reporter they helped rescue was Miguel Almaguer from "NBC Nightly News."Almaguer reported live from Azusa on Friday’s broadcast with Brian Williams. Almaguer’s live shot showed him wedged into a shelf of thick mud that had slid down from the hillside. The mud went up to this thighs.]

Incredible @Miguelnbc live shot on @nbcnightlynews pic.twitter.com/HgL45ar5wX

— Dan Linden (@DanLinden) February 28, 2014

After the rescue, Azusa police ordered news media and residents of all 26 homes on Ridge View Drive to evacuate. According to Azusa police Sgt. Sam Fleming, thick mud had poured into the backyards of two homes, rising 2 to 3 feet high. 

But some residents were reluctant to leave. Two people called out to firefighters to help divert rising water from their flooded backyards, but firefighters refused, saying the neighborhood was already under an evacuation order. 

The residents were later able to divert the water on their own. 

The hillside near Ridge View Drive burned in the Colby fire in January.

"The hillside is not stable," Fleming said. "Mud is extremely heavy, and people can get stuck real quick.

"Should that hillside go, it's going to happen quickly. We're wanting to get as many people out quickly ... because there won't be a lot of time," he added. 

Ridge View Drive is a U-shaped road in Azusa, a suburb at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains about 20 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles. 

A flash-flood watch was in effect for all of Los Angeles County late Friday evening, as officials warned that heavy rain and possible thunderstorms could sweep across the area. The storm is expected to last through Saturday night.

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robert.gauthier@latimes.com @rgaut999

hailey.branson@latimes.com @haileybranson

ron.lin@latimes.com @ronlin

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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