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Bay Area firefighters return from Texas, others deploy to Florida

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Gustavo Galindo pumps propane into tanks at the Exxon gas station on State Road 84 and 130th Avenue in Davie, Fla., Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 as a long line of people wait to fill up their gas tanks before Hurrance Irma hits South Florida. (Taimy Alvarez/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/TNS)

Bay Area firefighters deployed to conduct water rescues in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in Texas are scheduled to return home Thursday afternoon, while at least one of them is now heading to Florida in advance of Hurricane Irma.

California Task Force 3, a water rescue team organized under the Federal Emergency Management Agency, sent 16 members from fire departments in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties as well as the cities of Menlo Park, Palo Alto, San Mateo, San Jose and South San Francisco. Between them, the team has a combined 316 years of experience in firefighting as well as water and technical rescues.

The team conducted water-based search and rescue in the rural areas around Wharton, Texas. They also used drones to assist in that effort.

Despite just arriving home Thursday, the team remains ready to deploy to other disasters as needed.

“All of the water rescue equipment will be checked on Friday and readied for response,” Menlo Park Fire District Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman said Thursday. “We have already notified other team members who are prepared to respond at a moment’s notice if we are requested to either drive, or fly, anywhere in the country or U.S. territories.”

Founding member of Task Force 3 and Task Force Leader Carl Kustin has served for 27 years. He has responded to Hurricane Katrina, 2016’s Hurricane Matthew, the World Trade Center collapse in New York City and numerous other disasters.

This afternoon, Kustin will be flying from San Jose to Tallahassee, Florida, to work with local first responders and rescue crews responding to those endangered along the route of Hurricane Irma.

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