September brought a new first for the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s (LACoFD) Urban Search and Rescue teams as one unit deployed in response to a magnitude 7.1 earthquake in Mexico on September, 20, 2017, and a second in response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico just three days later on September 23. It was the first time the Department had teams working in two different parts of the world. The team sent to Mexico was activated by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) while the deployment to Puerto Rico was requested by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and approved by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES).
In Mexico, the team (comprised of 67 members, 5 canines, and 62,000 pounds of specialized tools along with medical equipment) conducted search and rescue operations. As part of USAID’s Disaster Assistance Response Team, Battalion Chiefs Bryan Wells and Dennis Cross led the group as they worked alongside teams from around the globe to locate survivors.
Upon the conclusion of rescue efforts and building assessments, the Government of Mexico requested assistance from our team in the demobilization process. A transfer of equipment (including saws, hand tools, generators, and fuel containers, and base of operations supplies) was made from the team to the Mexican Red Cross.
In Puerto Rico, 27 members of California Task Force 2 led by Battalion Chief Robert Harris were assigned as a water rescue package to conduct secondary searches of rural areas, welfare checks on unaccounted for citizens, and the identification of critical infrastructure for the Incident Support Team.
LACoFD is very proud to be represented on the world stage by these brave, skillful and devoted public servants. Both teams are scheduled to return from their deployments on Friday, September 29.