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San Diego Rescue Team Eyes New Orleans As Isaac Approaches

— Seventy members of the San Diego-based search and rescue team, California Task Force 8, are ready to make their way to New Orleans if Hurricane Isaac delivers a hard hit.

Aired 8/28/12 on KPBS News.

California Rescue Task Force 8, based in San Diego, is ready to head for the Crescent City if Hurricane Isaac puts people in danger.

Brent Brainard and his rescue dog Fletch will accompany California Task Force 8, if it is called the New Orleans to respond to damage from Hurricane Isaac.
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Above: Brent Brainard and his rescue dog Fletch will accompany California Task Force 8, if it is called the New Orleans to respond to damage from Hurricane Isaac.

Task Force 8 is second in line among national rescue teams to bolster local operations if the hurricane does serious damage to property and threatens the lives of residents.

Doug Nakama, deputy chief of the San Diego Fire Department, is heading up the effort. He spoke with reporters Tuesday morning in a warehouse full of huge supply pallets, which the task force will need to carry with them if they are called to New Orleans.

Nakama was joined by search specialist Brent Brainard, who stood alongside his rescue dog, a Labrador retriever named Fletch. The task force will bring a total of four rescue dogs with them.

Most of the members of Task Force 8 are assigned to local fire departments. Nakama pointed out that Wednesday marks the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, to which Task Force 8 was also called.

He said their operations involve more than just sniffing out potential victims who may be trapped in buildings.

“Our specialty is to go in there and help shore the building, to break and breach concrete or metal to get in there and save victims,” said Nakama.

Nakama said he is closely following weather forecasts, though his team won’t necessarily be called as soon as the hurricane arrives. Damage from disasters is typically not well known until many hours after the event.

Though he couldn’t predict the likelihood of them being called to New Orleans, Nakama said the need for some rescue operation is almost certain.

“You've got to believe there are a lot of folks out there that didn’t get the word, or ended up taking a chance,” he said. “Then we have to go in there and try to rescue them.”

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