HOUSTON (CBS SF) — Some Bay Area firefighters who have been helping with water rescue efforts in Texas in response to flooding from Hurricane Harvey may be sent elsewhere, a Bay Area fire chief said.

As of about 3:15 p.m. a water rescue team sponsored by the Menlo Park Fire Protection District was waiting to see whether they will be deployed to Florida, which may be hit by Hurricane Irma, Menlo Park Fire Protection District Chief Harold Schapelhouman said.

As of 4 p.m. Irma was about 760 miles east of the Leeward Islands and was a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph, according to officials with the National Hurricane Center. It was moving west at 14 mph.

The team sponsored by Schapelhouman’s district consists of firefighters from central San Mateo County, Palo Alto, San Mateo, San Jose, South San Francisco and the Menlo Park Fire Protection District.

The team, which responds to disasters nationwide, brought three drones with them.

The drones saved firefighters time because they could focus their attention on where people were. No other team was authorized to bring drones to the disaster.

“We’ve been kind of leading in this area,” Schapelhouman said. Menlo Park fire officials have received approval to fly drones anywhere in the U.S. during the day and in certain areas at night.

The approval to fly anywhere in the daytime came because the team does respond to disasters nationwide.

The team’s rescue work is mostly over in Texas.

The team has been in the city of Wharton, one of the lowest points in the state, where firefighters have had the opportunity to rescue seniors mainly.

Two other firefighters from San Mateo County have been deployed out of the area. They were sent to extinguish a fire in Helena.

One of those is now heading to the Eclipse Complex Fire in the Klamath and Six Rivers national forests near the Oregon border.

Another could be going south to the La Tuna Fire near Burbank in Los Angeles County where nearly 6,000 acres have burned

Schapelhouman said both firefighters are part of strike teams that are sent to keep homes from being destroyed.

Another firefighter is being deployed to the Pier Fire in Tulare County where more than 17,000 acres have burned.

Throughout the deployments, Menlo Park and other fire officials make sure there are enough firefighters to keep Bay Area residents safe.


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