Houston Firefighters Head to East Coast to Help Respond to Hurricane Florence

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Texas Task Force 1 posted this photo on Facebook showing rescue boats ready to respond.

Three firefighters from the Houston Fire Department are on their way to North Carolina in response to Hurricane Florence, and one Houston firefighter has been sent to Hawaii to help with Tropical Storm Olivia. 

The firefighters are members of Texas Task Force 1, an emergency response team tasked with urban search and rescue. A team of 16 responders was activated by FEMA this week.

“What our team specifically will be focusing on is the areas where flood and flash flood becomes an issue,” said Stephen Bejune, a spokesperson for Texas Task Force 1. Bjune said the task force is specifically trained in water rescue.  

“They’re able to get in there and do those rescues where traditionally local departments may not have that skill, or might not have those resources, or might not have enough of those resources and trained personnel,” Bejune added. 

Meanwhile, officials continue to watch the Gulf of Mexico for potential storms. On Wednesday morning, the National Hurricane Center downgraded the chance of a tropical depression or storm forming in the Gulf from 70 to 60 percent.

“While we’ve sent 16 people to North Carolina in a few boats, there are still ample resources in the state to support Texans,” Bejune said.

Dan Reilly, who works for the Houston office of the National Weather Service, told News 88.7 it is still early to forecast what will happen with the potential storm.

“The track and intensity are still very uncertain, some indication reaching the Texas coast sometime around Friday. But the track and intensity, we don’t really have a defined system yet, really difficult to predict,” Riley said.

Officials say a storm approaching the United States Gulf Coast in the next week could present problems, especially for locations already saturated by several inches of rain over the last couple of days.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story stated four Houston firefighters were sent to North Carolina. Texas Task Force 1 confirmed the actual number of firefighters from Houston is three.