Local first responders headed to Houston to help with rescue efforts

TACOMA, Wash.  -- Flooding from tropical storm Harvey is overburdening resources within the country's fourth-largest city, prompting authorities to call on volunteers with watercraft for help in rescuing those trapped in homes and buildings in Houston.

First responders in our region got the call for help Sunday from FEMA.

“They’re all firefighters and police officers and emergency medical technicians, doctors, engineers and so forth in our community day by day, but they get called into FEMA federal service,” says Mike McCaffree, who is with Pierce County Emergency Management.

They are members of Washington Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue; each of them specializing in water rescue. This same task force deployed to the Oso landslide three years ago. They say their training here in the Pacific Northwest has prepared them for whatever comes their way in Texas.

The National Weather Service calls the flooding "unprecedented," and warns things may become more dire if a record-breaking 50 inches of rain does fall on parts of Texas in coming days.

“When they get in the water, you have waters that have every type of contamination that you can possibly think of, you have debris floating around that can injure the members or injure the people they are rescuing. They may have to provide medical treatment to people they are rescuing,” says McCaffree.

The water rescue unit could be gone for 14 days, possibly longer considering the devastation and the need in Texas and the surrounding area.