Among the damaged properties were historic hotels and the homes of celebrities including television personality Oprah Winfrey and talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres, who both live in the upscale hillside community of Montecito, known for its natural beauty and proximity to Los Angeles.
"Right now, our assets are focused on determining if anyone is still alive in any of those structures that have been damaged", Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told Los Angeles television station KCAL.
"We are still very much in active search and rescue mode", Mr Elms said.
Jim and Alice Mitchell moved into their dream retirement home in the ritzy Montecito area of Santa Barbara County in 1999.More news: Thomas Fire, California's Largest On Record, Is Now 100 Percent Contained
Brown said 43 people remain missing, although some may just be out of communication.
Seven thousand people have been ordered to evacuate while over 23,000 others have been asked to leave voluntarily.
A baby girl who was buried under dirt and rocks after deadly mudslides tore through California was rescued by a local man who miraculously heard her cries in the dark and pulled her out of the muck, officials said. Santa Barbara County spokeswoman Amber Anderson told reporters some 1,250 emergency workers were at work Friday, slogging through soupy mud and uncertain footing to search for anyone who is trapped.
The flash floods caused mud and boulders to roll down hills, turning roads in to mud rivers and ripping homes off their foundations.More news: Pakistan army chief: U.S. general called, offered assurances
Authorities hadn't confirmed the names of the dead, but county fire spokesman Mike Eliason said children are among the victims. The rain fell hard, officials say two to four inches fell in less than 30 minutes in some areas.
The mud flow also prompted the closure of the 101 Freeway. The danger zone extended 100 miles from Santa Barbara to Duarte, a region scorched by wildfires. "We were ramped up for the weather here and we used those ramped up resources down there", Santa Maria City Manager Jason Stilwell said of sending Santa Maria resources.
A separate Montecito resident also named John Keating was seriously injured during this incident and is in the hospital. Mud and debris cover roads, homes and everything in its path with one official saying it looks like a battlefield.
Last month a series of bushfires ravaged the area and wiped out root vegetation, contributing to the instability of the soil and its inability to absorb moisture - priming the area for the devastating mudslides.More news: Facebook shares sink as USA stocks add to records