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As San Diego Rescue Team Continues Efforts in Houston, City Lifeguards Stay Home

Members of the San Diego Urban Search and Rescue (CA-TF8) gear up before head...

Credit: San Diego Urban Search & Rescue - California Task Force 8

Above: Members of the San Diego Urban Search and Rescue (CA-TF8) gear up before heading to Texas to assist after Hurricane Harvey, Aug. 27, 2017.

The 45 members of the Urban Search and Rescue Team sent from San Diego County to assist victims of Hurricane Harvey were working in the Cy-Fair region of the northwest Houston suburbs Thursday, according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.

The area — made up of the towns of Cypress and Fairbanks — was hit hard by flooding from Harvey, which has dumped more than 50 inches of rain since making landfall.

Among other things, a private boat making rescues in Cy-Fair capsized on Tuesday, sending 11 people into swollen Cypress Creek. All were rescued.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the San Diego team has not had to make any rescues because of receding water, but they have helped to survey the community along with the Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department and Harris County Sheriff's Office.

"A lot of our efforts are spent training on earthquakes, but we are FEMA's foot soldiers, so we are trained to handle situations like this too," said SDFRD Battalion Chief Lane Woolery, the team leader, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "We really truly try to be the Swiss army knife for FEMA."

The team, which includes 24 San Diego firefighters, originally deployed to the nearby suburb of Katy, SDFRD Chief Brian Fennessy said.

“We expect that they’re going to be there anywhere from two to three to potentially four weeks," he said.

A swiftwater rescue team made up of city lifeguards won't be deploying to Texas, at least for now, according to the SDFRD.

RELATED: San Diego Will Send Lifeguard Rescue Team To Texas After Dispute Over Hurricane Harvey Assistance

The chief came under fire this week from lifeguard Sgt. Ed Harris. He accused Fennessy of blocking the team from helping stranded people in Houston because he got too caught up in a bureaucratic wait for permission to send the crew.

But Fennessy said Thursday it was not his decision to make. The orders had to come from the state but they never did. Fennessy said flouting that process to self deploy would have put the city in legal jeopardy if a team member had been injured or worse.

“I’d expect to lose my job over it," Fennessy said. "I would. There would be such an outcry from the public safety community nationally that any fire chief or police chief would have done that. I would be expected to be held accountable for it."

The 45 members of the Urban Search and Rescue Team sent from San Diego County to assist victims of Hurricane Harvey were working in the Cy-Fair region of the northwest Houston suburbs Thursday, according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.

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