Fairfax canine team returns home after finding victims in Washington mudslide

(WJLA) - After two tough weeks searching for the remains of victims of a mudslide in Washington state, members of a canine team sent by Fairfax County returned home Thursday night.

Three women and three dogs were deployed to Oso, Washington, on April 3. They are members of Virginia Task Force 1, a search and rescue team that is run by Fairfax County Fire and Rescue.

The rescuers say the job wasn't easy, but the dogs handled the situation remarkably well.

"Everybody was experiencing the same conditions, and they weren't easy, it wasn't easy to move around," said canine team member Elizabeth Chaney.

The dogs sent by Fairfax County used their sense of smell to detect the remains of several people who had been trapped in the mudslide, which happened on March 22.

The rescuers say the victims had been trapped under the mud, and by sight it was impossible to tell where their bodies were.

"Without the dogs detecting where those people were, it would have taken months and months and months and months, to the point where they would never have been found," said team member Sally Dickinson.

"It allowed the families to begin the grieving process, to have their loved ones found and identified," said team member Teresa MacPherson. "That's important for us."