Local search and rescue travel to Gulf

September 1, 2008 8:27:50 PM PDT
Five urban search and rescue teams and eight swift water rescue teams are heading from California to the Gulf Coast. One of the most experienced is headed up by the Menlo Park Fire Protection District.

Eric Mijangos knows what it is like to face the wrath of a hurricane. He was there for both the ugly and uplifting stories of Katrina.

"We were able to pull an older gentleman out of his home that was sitting there pretty much waiting for help," said Mijangos.

Mijangos is part of an urban search and rescue team based in Menlo Park that is scheduled to fly out of San Jose on Monday night to a staging area in Atlanta. Their course all depends on the path of Hurricane Gustav.

"It's very possible that they are going to redirect us in transit and we're going to go right to ground zero and get to work as soon as we hit the ground," said Arnie Kestler with Task Force 3.

Twelve members of Task Force 3 are already on the road. They left early Sunday morning with seven vehicles and 30,000 pounds of equipment. The team was driving through Shamrock, Texas when ABC7 talked with them Monday afternoon.

"First and foremost is keep our guys safe. We've got to be prepared for the elements. It's going to be wet and it's going to be windy," said Capt. Ben Marra, the task force leader.

The Bay Area contingent includes four experienced canine teams. They will be used in search and rescue missions and to make sure people are adhering to evacuation orders.

"That's what he's trained to do. Once he finds live human scent he will stand there and bark and bark and bark at the scent source," said Lynne Engelbert with Canine Search.

Another 60 Air National Guard personnel and 40,000 pounds of equipment left Moffett Field Monday. The massive response and early coordination efforts put the task force in a good position and a good frame of mind.

"Obviously we are on our game now. Everybody's more or less at ease. I feel it, and it feels good to know everybody is confident and ready to rock and roll," said Mijangos.


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