Two 16-person teams consisting mostly of Sacramento firefighters have been deployed to the East Coast this week to assist emergency preparation and relief efforts as Hurricane Florence approaches the Carolinas.
Urban Search and Rescue California Task Force 7, sponsored by Sacramento Fire Department, is one of more than two dozen of FEMA-authorized task forces in the U.S. that assists in emergencies.
That task force has about 200 personnel, Sacramento Fire Department spokesman Capt. Keith Wade said, but sends smaller specialized teams as they are requested by FEMA.
The first team arrived in Raleigh, N.C., early Thursday, Wade said. It’s made up of members specializing in boat operations, including rescue swimmers, logistics experts and medical specialists, according to Wade. Of the 16-person crew, 13 are Sacramento Fire Department firefighters, he said.
The first team was dispatched and left California at about 2 a.m. Tuesday, Wade said. They drove cross-country and arrived about 5:30 a.m. Thursday, he said.
The first crews from Sacramento arrived in Raleigh North Carolina around 530AM. It was a long journey but they are happy to have arrived and have the opportunity to help our brothers and sisters on the East Coast.#HurricanceFlorence pic.twitter.com/T4z1DtIKvG— Sacramento Fire (@SacFirePIO) September 14, 2018
A second team of 16 was dispatched Wednesday and will hopefully arrive before Hurricane Florence touches down, Wade said. That team has 10 Sacramento fire personnel.
USAR teams make the journey on the ground rather than by air because it’s faster and more cost-efficient than flying equipment from California to the East Coast, or having equipment retrofitted on-site, Wade said.
“They just drive, because they can get there in the same amount of time,” he said.
Eight USAR task forces are based in the Golden State – six out of Southern California, one out of Oakland and one sponsored by Sacramento. There are 28 USAR task forces nationwide.
Hurricane Florence is expected to make landfall at the Carolina coast by Friday, forecasts show.
Task Force 7 has provided assistance during Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Harvey and hurricanes Irma and Maria that devastated Puerto Rico last year.
“It’s not their first time to the East Coast,” Wade said.