PG&E, Firefighters Head To Florida To Help After Hurricane Irma Strikes

MENLO PARK (CBS SF) – Bay Area firefighters and PG&E crews on Thursday were preparing to head to Florida to provide assistance once Hurricane Irma makes landfall this weekend.

Firefighters deployed to conduct water rescues in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in Texas are scheduled to return home Thursday afternoon, while at least one of them is now heading to Florida.

California Task Force 3, a water rescue team organized under the Federal Emergency Management Agency, sent 16 members from fire departments in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties as well as the cities of Menlo Park, Palo Alto, San Mateo, San Jose and South San Francisco. Between them, the team has a combined 316 years of experience in firefighting as well as water and technical rescues.

The team conducted water-based search and rescue in the rural areas around Wharton, Texas. They also used drones to assist in that effort.

Despite just arriving home Thursday, the team remains ready to deploy to other disasters as needed.

“All of the water rescue equipment will be checked on Friday and readied for response,” Menlo Park Fire District Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman said. “We have already notified other team members who are prepared to respond at a moment’s notice if we are requested to either drive, or fly, anywhere in the country or U.S. territories.”

Founding member of Task Force 3 and Task Force Leader Carl Kustin has served for 27 years. He has responded to Hurricane Katrina, 2016’s Hurricane Matthew, the World Trade Center collapse in New York City and numerous other disasters.

Thursday afternoon, Kustin will be flying from San Jose to Tallahassee, Florida, to work with local first responders and rescue crews responding to those endangered along the route of Hurricane Irma.

Meanwhile PG&E crews are preparing to head to south Florida to help in the efforts to restore power after the hurricane its the area this weekend, according to the utility.

The Category 5 storm, with maximum winds of 180 mph, has been tearing through the Caribbean and is forecast to hit Florida in the next couple of days, according to the National Weather Service.

As part of a mutual aid agreement with the utility Florida Power & Light, about 100 PG&E employees—line workers, equipment operators, supervisors and other personnel—will travel to Florida after the hurricane moves through the area.

The agreement was signed in 2014 and this will be the second time it has been activated, following Hurricane Matthew in the area last year, according to PG&E.

Under the agreement, FPL will cover the costs of the support from PG&E.

© Copyright 2017 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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