Calif. Water-Rescue Team Deploys to Help in Hurricane Harvey Rescue Efforts

Calif. Water-Rescue Team Deploys to Help in Hurricane Harvey Rescue Efforts

News Sep 01, 2017

Sept. 01—A water-rescue team of Ventura County firefighters was sent to Houston to assist the Hurricane Harvey rescue effort, officials said Thursday.

Fourteen firefighters—13 men and one woman—hit the road for Texas about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday after the Federal Emergency Management Agency contacted the California Office of Emergency Services to see if any of the state's sanctioned water-rescue teams could respond, according to Steve Swindle, a Ventura County Fire Department spokesman.

Dozens of people have died and thousands more have been rescued from floods after Hurricane Harvey pounded the Texas Gulf coast with record amounts of rain.

There are 12 water-rescue teams in California and two of them, including a portion of the team from the Ventura County Fire Department, were chosen to respond, Swindle said. He called the deployment an honor.

"We are here to help the citizens of Texas, as well," Swindle said of the team.

The other team chosen is from the Long Beach Fire Department, Swindle said.

The Ventura County agency was able to send 14 members of its 30-person team, Swindle said. They represent a mixture of ranks, including battalion chiefs, captains, fire engineers and firefighters, Swindle said. Two of the people responding are also paramedics, he said.

Although the team is employed by the Ventura County Fire Department, the state water-rescue team operates on a voluntary basis and involves "stringent" training on the state level, Swindle said.

Requirements include being a strong swimmer and passing related tests as well as being in top physical condition, he said.

There are also equipment requirements for the team, and the department has been able to acquire much of that through FEMA grants, Swindle said.

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Two large trailers full of rescue equipment and three inflatable rubber boats with motors were being hauled to Texas along with the team, Swindle said.

Several of the people on the team were also sent to help with the Hurricane Katrina rescue effort 12 years ago, Swindle said.

"We wish them all the best," Swindle said.

Ventura County Star, Calif.
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