San Jose

Bay Area Urban Search and Rescue Team Heads to Houston to Help Flood Victims

Two Bay Area rescue teams were on their way to Houston on Sunday to help people in flooded areas ravaged by Hurricane Harvey.

Task Force 3, an urban search and rescue team, received a call from Texas leaders at 6 a.m. Sunday, and by 5:30 p.m. it was on its way to South Texas for the team's first major deployment since Hurricane Katrina.

Rescuers in the nation's fourth largest city said they can't keep up with the constant calls for help after Harvey's torrential rains caused flash flooding and led to six deaths in the greater Houston area. Members of Task Force 3 quickly packed up boats, gear and food in Menlo Park, preparing to head into the most devastated areas.

"I anticipate they will put these guys in the worst locations because that's where you want them," said Harold Schapelhouman, Menlo Park's fire chief. "Wherever the deepest water is or people in attics, that's the best spot for these guys."

Fourteen firefighters trained in swift-water rescue, including those from Menlo Park, San Mateo, Burlingame, Palo Alto and San Jose, responded Sunday, and theirs wasn't the only Bay Area team headed to Texas.

"Oakland already went out as a Type 1 heavy with 80 people," Schapelhouman said. "Mostly doctors, engineers and everyone needed to create a tent city."

Task Force 3 was bringing with it tools it didn't have in its response to Katrina in 2005: drones to help track down flood victims in need of rescue.

Members of the firefighter rescue team planned to drive in shifts to make it to Texas in 26 hours.

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