Bay Area firefighters receive hero's welcome after helping with Harvey

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Families beamed with pride welcoming home Bay Area firefighters who responded to Hurricane Harvey.

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"He was (in) Texas for like 9 days and we were missing him a lot so I made him a sign," said 8-year-old Izzie Watson as she waited for her father's flight to land.

Izzie's mom, Jill, echoed her daughter's pride, "definitely knowing that he's there helping people that are really in a huge time of need is amazing to know that he was able to make a difference in so many people's lives," said Jill Watson.

David Watson is a firefighter with Contra Costa County and he's part of Oakland's Urban Search and Rescue Task Force Four. The team is made up of people from 18 different Bay Area agencies. They have a broad range of skills from search and rescue to hazmat mitigation.

Around 50 personnel landed at Oakland International Airport Monday night after dispatching for the mission on August 26th.

"A lot of it was trying to keep people calm and try to let them know that leaving their homes, which is very hard for them was something that needed to be done," said Tamara Holmes, Oakland Fire Department.

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FEMA funded the mission. For some task force members, this was their first deployment. Others have responded to hurricanes before. While many of the members are firefighters Karin Kuffel is a civilian structural engineer.

She makes sure buildings are safe for rescuers to enter. Kuffel says mold and water logged buildings will be a long term problem.

"It's kind of sad to see that much stuff underwater for so long even on our way to the airport we could still see part of Houston under water," said Kuffel.

While the bulk of the crew returned from Houston on a flight there are still about two dozen firefighters driving back with all the equipment and they should be home Thursday or Friday.

The crew is bringing home a message to the Bay Area.

"My main take away is to always be prepared for anything that you can," said Charohn Dawson, Alameda County Fire Department.

The Task Force Four team says Harvey's a reminder to stock your home with emergency supplies.

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