Fire rescue team airborne again
March 11, 2011
The Los Angeles County Fire Department’s acclaimed rescue team, just days removed from digging through earthquake rubble in New Zealand, is now being dispatched a world away, to the devastated shores of Japan.
“You reset, refocus and start planning,” said Battalion Chief Thomas Ewald, who just returned from New Zealand himself and will be helping to coordinate from here the 74-person team’s rescue efforts in Japan, where the death toll from a monstrous earthquake and tsunami is mounting by the minute.
The Fire Department’s California Task Force 2 is only one of two urban search and rescue teams in the country regularly pressed into action by the U.S. aid agency’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. The other is the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department. The two had distinguished themselves as the nation’s best.
In a memo to the Board of Supervisors on Friday, newly named Fire Chief Daryl L. Osby wrote: “It is a source of great pride for our organization to not only have this highly specialized response capability but to be called into duty by USAID to help save lives and property beyond our borders.”
The mission at hand differs substantially from those undertaken in the wake of earthquakes in New Zealand and in Haiti, where the team earned international praise for its work in finding and freeing residents trapped for days under buildings. This one will include a swift water rescue component because of the massive tsunami flooding.
Battalion Chief Ewald said that team members, who’ll be transporting with them inflatable rescue boats, have trained for this kind of challenging work at a variety of far-flung locations, including the Colorado River, a Department of Water and Power facility in Sylmar and the Roaring Rapids ride at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia.
“This lets us put people into a controlled swift water environment,” Ewald said of the amusement park training.
The team is scheduled to leave Los Angeles International Airport tonight on a commercial charter flight that will also carry the rescue squad from Virginia.