Los Angeles firefighters join rescue efforts in Turkey and Syria after massive quake

People stand on top of a huge pile of rubble.
Civil defense workers and residents search through the rubble of collapsed buildings in the Syrian town of Harem near the Turkish border on Monday.
(Ghaith Alsayed / Associated Press)

Dozens of specially trained Los Angeles County firefighters have headed to Turkey and Syria to assist in search-and-rescue operations after Monday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake, which devastated the region near the two countries’ border.

The crew is one of two from the U.S. being sent to help. The other is from Fairfax County in Virginia.

The U.S. Agency for International Development deployed the two urban search-and-rescue teams to aid in the response to the destructive earthquake and its aftershocks, which included a 7.5 temblor. Thousands have died, and thousands of buildings have toppled. The casualty count is expected to grow as first responders continue to sort through wreckage at scenes of mass destruction that stretch miles beyond the quake’s epicenter in southeastern Turkey.


The magnitude 7.8 earthquake near Gaziantep, a major city in southern Turkey, was followed by a second one measuring magnitude 7.5 about 60 miles away.

Feb. 7, 2023

Los Angeles County was sending 81 search-and-rescue crew members, along with six search dogs and three structural engineers, officials said Monday evening.

“These two teams will be part of the USAID DART [Disaster Assistance Response Team] and will coordinate with Turkish authorities and other responding organizations to provide life-saving assistance,” USAID Administrator Samantha Power said in a statement. Both teams left the U.S. early Tuesday, according to a tweet from the USAID Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance. Aboard a massive aircraft were the crew members, a dozen dogs and more than 170,000 pounds of specialized equipment.

The earthquake’s epicenter was in Kahramanmaras province, which is about 160 miles from the border with Syria, a country already facing a humanitarian refugee crisis as its 12-year civil war rages on.

Anthony Marrone, the interim fire chief for L.A. County, said the two teams could be there for two weeks, if not longer.

The L.A. “team is highly skilled and elite in urban search and rescue,” Marrone said, and specifically trained in earthquake response.

The San Andreas fault is capable of magnitude 7.8 earthquakes. Two have occurred twice in recent times: the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and one in 1857 in Southern California.

Feb. 7, 2023