MONTECITO, Calif. - It is difficult to credit just one group or agency for helping Montecito dig out of the mud.
However, MarBorg Industries is one local standout among those doing the lion's share in the clean-up effort.
Roughly two dozen MarBorg employees have made back-to-back trips for weeks on end, driving large roll-off trucks loaded with metal dumpsters used to haul out tons of mud and debris from the community devastated by last month's debris flow.
Frank Desales is one of those roll-off truck drivers and knows the streets of Montecito like the back of his hands.
"I've never seen it like this in the 35 years I've been working here," Desales said as he drove up Olive Mill Road.
Desales is still trying to wrap his head around the scope of the January 9 disaster that left his tree-lined route unrecognizable.
"Let me try to find this number," Desales said as he craned his neck to look for an address to a home that may no longer exist.
"When you come out here it's sad," Desales said. "Gotta help out."
In just one weekend, MarBorg drivers hauled out 130 loads -- at 15-tons apiece -- from homes reduced to an island surrounded by mud and muck.
"I still have an oak tree in my dining room," Lynn Kirst said.
Kirst considers herself one of the lucky ones. She and her 93-year-old mother were in her Santa Elena Road home when a powerful river of mud broke through two walls of her house.
"I was up to my chest in mud in five seconds flat," Kirst said.
Kirst invited NewsChannel 3's Beth Farnsworth into her home to see the devastation first-hand. Like so many other damaged homes in the area, every room in Kirst's single-story house was blanketed in three to four feet of mud.
"I had literally two oak trees in my library," Kirst said. "It's really miraculous. So, when we see what we're cleaning up here, it seems like a huge job but we have made huge strides."
Outside, Desales pulls a large tarp across a loaded dumpster in Kirst's driveway. He's preparing to switch it out for a coveted, empty container.
"We built this house ourselves," Kirst said. "My dad was down here at 80 years old swinging a hammer so it means a lot to me."
Kirst is quick to give high praise to Dasales and MarBorg's equipment in the massive clean-up effort. These days, familiarity is especially healing. Kirst and Desales exchange pleasantries as he refuses to accept a tip.
"Frank is awesome," Kirst said with big smile. "All of the MarBorg guys have been awesome. It's great to have a family-owned company here serving the community. Brian was here yesterday running the earthmover himself."
Kirst is referring to Brian Borgatello, President of MarBorg Industries.
"Probably 60 to 70% of those work orders are for the Montecito area," Borgatello said as he pointed to a desk covered with slips of paper.
Borgatello oversees MarBorg's 300 employees, 200 trucks, thousands of containers and a multitude of services including the company's massive warehouse where various loads are sorted. He revealed that MarBorg's equipment was also hit hard by the recent disasters.
Lost or damaged equipment included hundreds of feet of fencing (Casa Dorinda was undergoing construction at the time and was surrounded with fencing rented from MarBorg) countless porta-potties and dozens of dumpsters.
"Upside down in a swimming pool off Paragrande and E. Valley," Borgatello said as he pointed to a wall of pictures showing the company's rented dumpsters crumpled in various neighborhoods throughout Montecito.
He also mentioned the loss of more than 1,000 plastic bins on wheels, used for trash, recycling and green waste.
"Those carts are, for the most part, gone," Borgatello said. "They've been found in the ocean, they've been found miles away from where the house is."
As the community heads toward the second month following the disaster, MarBorg has purchased new replacement equipment and cut its clean-dirt hauling fees in half.
"The misconception here is that this is clean dirt. This is not clean dirt -- it's mixed with a lot of organics and as people are scooping the stuff up in front of their homes, there's shrubbery in it, picket fence, lots of debris mixed in it."
Santa Barbara County has set the regular trash rate at $98 dollars a ton; MarBorg has reduced that fee to $50 dollars a ton. "Which is more than the clean dirt rate but less than general refuse," Borgatello said.
MarBorg Industries has also offered overtime and double time to employees.
"We're doing everything we can," Borgatello said. "We've got a great group of hard-working men that are going 12 hours a day, six days a week. Some have offered to come on Sundays -- we've taken them up on that offer. We've got to do it. We've got to step up and do what we do for the community. That's what MarBorg's always done."
Desales is among those who jumped at the chance to take on weekend shifts.
"The work's out there," Desales said. "Gotta work Sundays, Saturday. Got to work."
Like Desales, MarBorg's drivers are helping the Montecito community move forward, one load at a time. Arguably, among the challenges is keeping their eyes on the road and not gazing too long in the rearview mirror at what used to be.
"It's going to take awhile, a year or two years I guess, to clear all this dirt," Desales said as he drove off with another full load of mud and twisted metal.
For more information about MarBorg Industries visit https://www.marborg.com.