Two Santa Clara firefighters are currently in Hawaii, helping the victims of Tropical Storm Lane. They are members of Task Force 3, a team of South Bay first responders specifically trained in search and rescue operations.
On Aug. 22, the team packed up 40,000 pounds of search and rescue equipment, including inflatable boats and flew out to Hawaii. The task force is currently operating on the Big Island, where heavy rainfall from Tropical Storm Lane has caused a number of landslides and road closures making search and rescue operations difficult.
The 36 members of Task Force 3 are using their expertise to rescue survivors of Tropical Storm Lane. The storm dumped nearly four feet of water on parts of Hawaii last week.
The team must also prepare for another storm. On Monday, the National Weather Service issued a warning about Tropical Storm Miriam. Miriam has formed in the Pacific Ocean and is gaining strength as it moves towards Hawaii.
Task Force 3 is working closely with the U.S. Coast Guard and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) personnel to evacuate flood victims and prepare for the possibility of more rain.
The task force has extensive experience with search and rescue in flooding situations. A team was sent to Houston after Hurricane Harvey in August 2017 specifically because of its ability to conduct water rescues. Five firefighters from Santa Clara were among the first responders in Houston.
The task force was created in the early 1990s. It is made up of first responders from throughout the Peninsula and the South Bay. All of the team members have received extra training in search and rescue operations.
In addition to sending firefighters from Santa Clara to Hawaii, the task force sent first responders from Menlo Park, Mountain View, Redwood City, San Mateo, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Clara County and San Mateo as well as a few civilian professionals.