OC's elite disaster response team helps with Hurricane Harvey

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Nearly three dozen firefighters from Orange County are in Texas, helping authorities there respond to Hurricane Harvey.

This elite group known as Task Force 5 is made up of firefighters from the Orange County Fire Authority, the Anaheim Fire Department and the Orange City Fire Department. 

Captain Larry Kurtz with the OC Fire Authority describes them as the best of the best. 

"These are some of the most highly trained members of the fire agencies. These men and women who are on these teams, these are what you'd call the Navy Seals of the fire service," he told KPCC.

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In addition to 35 firefighters, Task Force 5 has 10 support staff including a surgeon, a structural engineer and several drivers.

The 45-person team will work with other task forces from around the country to help local officials with search, rescue and disaster relief efforts. Teams from Utah, Tennessee and Missouri were also slated to help with these efforts.

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Task Force 5 left for San Antonio around 1 a.m. Friday morning. They were expecting an 18 to 20-hour drive. Why couldn't they splurge for plane tickets?

They don't travel light. Their gear includes rescue boats, forklifts, hazardous materials equipment and other equipment.

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We caught up with Battalion Chief Shane Sherwood from the Orange County Fire Authority was the team was passing through Arizona.

"We have 15 vehicles with a few semi-trucks, some light vehicles pulling some boats and other pieces of equipment that we'll need when we make it to Texas," he told KPCC.


California has eight disaster relief task forces that are organized and operated under the auspices of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Task Force 5 arrived in San Antonio around 11 p.m. Friday night. They plan to wait 24 hours until the storm passes over them. At that point, they'll make "a situational assessment and deploy accordingly," said Captain Alan Wilkes with the OC Fire Authority.

The team could be in Texas anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the severity of the storm.

In addition to Task Force 5, six members of Riverside Fire's Urban Search and Rescue Team are also in Texas, providing logistical and communications support.

The L.A. County Fire Department is also sending 15 members of its swiftwater rescue team.

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