SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Twenty-seven Sacramento-area firefighters, specially trained in urban search and rescue are bound for one of the areas recently ravaged by powerful late-summer hurricanes.

The deployment location won’t be confirmed until Thursday, but the betting is on hard-hit Puerto Rico.

While the Sacramento Fire Department is coordinating the effort, from supplies to transport, the 27 volunteers hail from a number of fire companies around the region.

“Sacramento, Sacr Metro, Cosumnes, Folsom, West Sac, and Roseville all combined together. We have monthly training specializing in water rescue, structural collapse, heavy lifting in case of a cement collapse; we prepare for any disaster like we’ll be going to now,” said Sacramento Fire Department spokesman Dave Lauchner.

The firefighters were whisked down to Travis Air Force Base late Thursday afternoon after checking in at an old Mc Clellan Air Field hangar which is finding useful, new life as a disaster-supply warehouse and staging area.

The firefighters will have a bittersweet task. They’ll be working for FEMA, hoping to find hurricane survivors, while on the lookout for victims who may be trapped in debris or collapsed buildings. Some of the volunteers have been training for six years or more, including Andrew Ramos, a Sacramento firefighter who decided to become an expert in urban search and rescue after September 11.

The deployment, which is expected to bring the local responders to Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands, will last up to 14 days. The volunteers will earn their regular pay and will be paid a premium rate for working on their normal days off.

It will be challenging; besides the debris, and storm-related human carnage, the volunteers will be nourished on government MREs and bottled water, and likely to be sleeping in tents for the duration of the mission.


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