A Bay Area search and rescue team that returned from Texas on Monday is now on a flight heading toward Florida as Hurricane Irma looms.
The 80-member California Task Force 4 worked 14-hour days to ease some of the misery from Hurricane Harvey, and helped rescue not only people, but also cattle, horses, dogs, cats and birds.
Less than 48 hours later, the same unit was asked to prepare for redeployment.
Fifty-two personnel from 18 agencies on Thursday boarded a flight out of Oakland, which took them first to Atlanta and then to a military base on the Florida-Georgia border.
Another 27 task force members, who were driving from Texas to the Bay Area, made it to New Mexico on Wednesday before being rerouted. One member, who happened to be in Atlanta, is also en route to Florida. Everyone will connect at the base and await instructions.
The group's equipment will include four rescue boats, tool for breaching and shoring up collapsed structures, audio and visual aid for finding trapped survivors, and four K-9 teams. While most members belong to East Bay fire departments, the team also includes two civil engineers and two doctors.
When asked how the group prepares for something that is utterly unpredictable, Dr. Neil Jayasekara replied: "Years of preparation."
In Menlo Park, a caravan of emergency vehicles with California Task Force 3 rolled in shortly after noon Thursday after a physically and emotionally exhausting mission in Texas. But that team was already preparing to head to Hurricane Irma territory.
It was a happy homecoming for 15 water rescue firefighters from around the Peninsula and San Jose.
"Oh it's fantastic to be home," said John Stevens, task force leader. "You know, as much as we all want to be there and all want to help, it really is a lot of work."
That workload was massive as was shown in aerial footage of Wharton, Texas, taken by the team's drone.
"Obviously we didn't know the streets, the town, and we didn't know the effects of the flooding," said Capt. Tony Eggimann, logistics manager. "So we were able to quickly put that drone in the air and get some aerial recon ... try to figure out the layout of the city and where the greatest amount of damage was."
Task Force 3 late Thursday night was cleaning and repairing equipment for Hurricane Irma.
"We don't know when, and we don't know where, and we don't know if we are flying or driving or a combination of both," said Menlo Park Fire District Chief Harold Schapelhouman. "But we know it's going to happen."
Further south, the California Air National Guard from the 129th Rescue Wing on Friday will deploy from Moffett Field in Mountain View to Irma's projected path. The 100-member highly-trained search and rescue unit will be needed especially due to their para-rescue skills. They are expected to fly choppers into flooded neighborhoods and pull people out to safety.
They team is being sent out again just days after returning from Texas, where it completed over 100 successful rescue operations in Harvey impacted areas.
"We'll be staging in western Florida and will assess the damage and where to put our skills into action," said Capt. Roderick Bersamina. "This isn't our first storm. We definitely have what it takes in the readiness we bring to the table."
As of Friday, Irma, one of the most powerful hurricanes in recorded history, has claimed 11 lives as it barreled across the Caribbean, officials say.
The Bay Area is also offering other kinds of support.
Second Harvest Food bank in San Jose is part of a nationwide network getting ready to ship out more food to victims of Hurricane Harvey. The group is now preparing for Irma.
Separately, PG&E is getting ready to send roughly 100 employees — line workers, equipment operators and support staff — to Florida on Friday. The goal is to get the crews on the ground so they can help local power workers respond to the havoc Irma is expected to wreak on parts of the state.
Bay Area crews will carry some equipment, but plan to use Florida power trucks to do repair work.