Seventy-nine specially trained members of the Sacramento-based California Task Force 7 are still waiting for an order to leave Travis Air Force Base to conduct search and rescue and recovery operations in earthquake-devastated Haiti.
Niko King, a Sacramento Fire Department Battalion Chief and the plan manager of Task Force 7, said this afternoon the Sacramento group is among three in the country that could leave within the next day or two. The teams will relieve other task forces that have been in Haiti for two or three days, he said.
“We’re on standby until Monday morning. Then we’ll be reassessed and will either be on standby three more days or stand down,” King said.
Task Force 7 members include firefighters from the Sacramento area, King said. They had hoped to depart early today but the airport at Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, is backed up with search and rescue and relief missions arriving from all over the world, King said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington, D.C., will give the order to depart, King said. FEMA is prioritizing which of the 28 Task Force teams in the country will go to Haiti and which will remain to respond to any disasters in the United States.
The goal is to send 10 teams and two teams, from Virginia and New York, left today, King said. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake Tuesday has killed at least 45,000 people, according to estimates by the Red Cross.
California Task Force 7 will depart in at least two aircraft with search and rescue tools and vehicles, search dogs, doctors and structural specialists as well as the firefighters.
The search and rescue equipment includes tools to cut and move concrete, heavy rigging equipment, sound detectors and cameras that can fit into the small spaces of crumbled buildings.
King said the Task Force has been modifying the equipment it will load onto either C-17 or C-5 planes.
“We’re streamlining our cache,” he said. “We probably don’t need the hazmat equipment because our military is there.”
Team members also have been conducting drills while they await deployment.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced Tuesday that California Task Force 2’s 70-member Urban Search and Rescue Team comprised of firefighters from Los Angeles County was dispatched to aid the quake victims.
The team also includes rescue specialists, emergency room physicians, structural engineers, heavy equipment operators, canine search dogs, hazardous materials technicians, communications specialists and logistics specialists.