Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2007

County emergency team deploys to Texas for hurricane cleanup

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A search and rescue team from Montgomery County’s Fire and Rescue Service is in Texas to help with damage done by Hurricane Dean, which made landfall as a category 5 Tuesday in southern Mexico.

The task force of 36 included firefighters, emergency medical personnel, a structural engineer, a doctor, a cook and other support workers, said county Fire Chief Thomas W. Carr Jr.

About half of the group left Sunday for Dallas with a tractor trailer and six other vehicles carrying their cutters and hydraulic lifts. The other half of the team flew out Monday afternoon from Thurgood Marshall Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Three other fire and rescue service members were sent to assist the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s staff coordinating the preparation efforts for the hurricane.

Montgomery County’s Urban Search and Rescue Team is one of 28 nationally that FEMA calls upon to assist in emergencies.

The team was sent to the Gulf Coast in 2005 to assist with Hurricane Katrina’s devastation and helped search the Pentagon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack.

FEMA deployed six teams in preparation for Hurricane Dean — two from the region and four from elsewhere in the nation, Carr said. This time it was Montgomery County’s turn in the rotation.

The county has about 200 firefighters, career and volunteer, trained in urban search and rescue. The department has about 1,100 career and 1,100 volunteer firefighters.

‘‘We don’t deploy without assuring we can take care of our community,” Carr said.

Fire and rescue spokesman Pete A. Piringer said the county team takes enough food and water to be self-sufficient for two weeks.

The team is stationed inland enough to be out of the worst of the storm damage so they can be sent to where they are needed, he said.