Countywide : Firefighter Rescue Unit Heads for Mexico City

Six specially trained Orange County firefighters left Thursday for Mexico City to assist in the search and rescue of earthquake survivors still trapped in the rubble of collapsed buildings.

Coordinated through the state Office of Emergency Services, this is the second team of rescuers the state has sent to the stricken city. The six Orange County firefighters, accompanied by six Los Angeles County firefighters, will arrive in Mexico City early Friday. All of the firefighters are specialists in heavy rescue techniques. Heavy rescue involves moving massive amounts of equipment or rubble.

Traveling on a National Guard C-130 transport plane, the firefighters will also bring acetylene torches, concrete and steel-cutting saws, bolt cutters and safety equipment to aid in rescue efforts.

“The hand-held equipment helps to delicately remove rubble,” explained Capt. Lou Furst of the Orange County Fire Department. “You don’t want to take a chance of causing further problems by just pulling buildings down. What the firefighters will be doing is almost a surgical-type operation.”

The first team of eight rescuers, chosen from Sacramento area fire departments, arrived in Mexico City shortly after midnight Wednesday. Rescue efforts by the state were initiated after a request for aid from U.S. Ambassador to Mexico John Gavin was approved on Tuesday by the federal Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance in Washington.