Ten local firefighters who are members of a statewide urban search and rescue team left for Texas early Friday with Hurricane Harvey expected to make landfall as a life-threatening Category 3 storm.
Forty-nine Ohio Task Force 1 members - including four Cincinnati firefighters - were abruptly called up at 11 p.m. Thursday once it became clear the storm was intensifying.
"OHTF1 has been activated as a Type III Team (49 member team) heading to San Antonio TX. This is a VERY short notice activation and the team plans to leave no later than 2:30 AM this night. More details as they come available," Ohio Task Force 1 posted to their Facebook page.
Cincinnati Assistant Fire Chief Tom Lakamp identified the four Cincinnati firefighters as:
They were joined by two firefighters from West Chester and one each from departments in Anderson Township, Sycamore Township, Evendlale and the Butler County city of Hamilton, according to Lakamp.
Another two firefighters from Anderson are on standby and may go, Anderson's fire union wrote in a Facebook post about 1 a.m. Friday.
They loaded up overnight and left out of Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton at 3 a.m., taking supplies and boats.
“As of about a half hour ago, they were fueling in Louisville," Lakamp said at 8 a.m. Friday. "They are in transit now. They have a long convoy of vehicles headed with them."
They are prepared to be gone for two weeks.
The task force is made up of firefighters and first responders from Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana and operates through FEMA Urban Search and Rescue.
Once they arrive in Texas, they will set up a base of operations close to but not in the hazard zone.
The team that went includes 14 who are "swift water trained," Lakamp said. He is a task member, too, and even though he did not go with the group on this trip, he has responded to Hurricane Katrina and 9/11.
"They will get there after landfall if (the storm) doesn't stall and be there at discretion of and waiting for assignments from the local EMA and deploy as needed, either to make sure everyone is safely evacuate or to do water rescues."
Hurricane Harvey has the potential to pack 125 mph winds, 12-foot storm surges and up to 3 feet of rain. It could be the fiercest such storm to hit the United States in almost a dozen years.
Forecasters say the "life-threatening storm" poses a "grave risk." It also will continue to intensify right up until landfall, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Millions of people are bracing for a prolonged battering that could swamp dozens of counties more than 100 miles inland.
Landfall is predicted for late Friday or early Saturday between Port O'Connor and Matagorda Bay, a 30-mile stretch of coastline about 70 miles northeast of Corpus Christi.
While the local firefighters are gone, agencies will cover their shifts with overtime paid for by federal authorities, Lakamp said.
"FEMA pays for all their missed shifts, so this doesn't cost the city anything," he said. "They are going down and get great experience and training and then bring it back to the city."
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