US & World

OC’s elite disaster team split during Hurricane Harvey, trying to find way back together

Orange County California Task Force 5 is aiding in the rescue efforts in Houston, Texas due to Hurricane Harvey. In this photo, rescue crews with dogs from Task Force 5 search house to house for people after Hurricane Katrina on September 9, 2005 in Braithwaite, Louisiana.
Orange County California Task Force 5 is aiding in the rescue efforts in Houston, Texas due to Hurricane Harvey. In this photo, rescue crews with dogs from Task Force 5 search house to house for people after Hurricane Katrina on September 9, 2005 in Braithwaite, Louisiana.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The team of nearly three dozen Orange County firefighters helping respond to Hurricane Harvey have unintentionally split, battalion Chief Shane Sherwood told KPCC.

The split was caused by the weather itself, Sherwood said. One half of the team, outfitted with rescue vehicles, became stuck close to Houston while making water rescues and couldn’t return to meet the rest of their group in Katy, Texas without leaving the vehicles.

Sherwood said his team is working on getting necessary supplies to their team members in Houston. The Houston outfit will be self-sufficient for 48 hours, but they would rather be together to improve their rescue capabilities.

“The way the team works is that everybody has a specific job… and if you break the team up you’re going to have something fall short,” Sherwood said.

The Katy-based team is stationed at Katy High School. They have moved more than 120 people from their homes in Katy to a shelter, which they were able to transport with the help of National Guard vehicles and high-profile buses. The Katy-based team doesn’t have access to rescue vehicles, so they are working with the National Guard and community volunteers to help get people to shelters with resources.

Sherwood said “it’s a coordinated effort” between the California Task Force 5 and the National Guard.

“We have the intel and we come with the background of a fire department, being able to provide any type of medical care that’s necessary to the communities,” Sherwood said. “And then also we have the National Guard which has the high profile vehicles and are able to make it through many of the flooded streets.”

While the rain has slowed, it has continued to pour all day and shows no signs of letting up, Sherwood said.