LA CONCHITA, Calif. – With the search for victims of a deadly mudslide over, some residents of this oceanfront town prepared to return to their homes despite being warned of the danger of another collapse.
"There's no place you can live in the world without danger," said Mike Bell, 57. "It's no greater danger than anywhere else."
The death toll stood at 10 in the beach community devastated by Monday's torrent of dirt and trees, and everyone on the list of missing people had been located. Thirteen homes were destroyed and 18 others were damaged.
The entire town of about 260 people was evacuated Monday. But Ventura County (search) Sheriff Bob Brooks said Thursday that officials have no authority to stop people from returning if their homes have been determined safe.
Authorities planned to meet with residents Friday to discuss a specific plan for their return.
"Now it's time to rebuild the community, and that's what we're here to do," said Ventura County Fire Chief Bob Roper.
Still, if they had their way, Roper and Brooks said people would never return to the beachfront town situated at the base of towering cliffs that have collapsed twice in 10 years following heavy rains.
"We believe that the La Conchita community is a geologically hazardous area," Brooks said Thursday. "It has been historically, it is today, and it will remain so. We do not recommend that people return to this area or the people who stay here remain here."
The warning was enough for West Aycock, who said he is not willing to risk his infant son's life.
"I don't want him there," said Aycock, 23. "He's too little. He's all I care about. I don't know what's going to happen with the mountain anymore. I don't know if it's going to come down or what."
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) visited La Conchita, and has declared a state emergency. Rescue workers stopped digging on Thursday after authorities determined everyone on a list of missing people had been located.