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San Francisco Bay Area Firefighters Headed To Louisiana To Help Hurricane Ida Victims

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- One of the Bay Area's best trained rescue operations is on the way to help those in Hurricane Ida's path.

On Sunday, 46 members of the elite rescue team started the long journey to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Witnessing utter devastation in the aftermath of hurricanes and tornadoes can be difficult to take in, even for trained rescuers.

"It can be mind-numbing and daunting at first thinking we can't possibly get all this work done in a timely manner," said Robert Lipp of the Oakland Fire Department.

Soon after hearing of deployment orders, the Urban Search and Rescue Task Force in Oakland quickly packed up essential gear, tools, life-jackets, and even boats, with a mission to save lives.

"When our country calls we expect to step up and assist where we can," said Oakland Fire Chief Reginald Freeman.

During a deployment in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in 2017 in Texas, members of the task force have seen what can deflate the human spirit, and uplift it too.

"Just seeing the goodness in humankind, including the people not necessarily trained or equipped were doing whatever they could possibly to help people," said Lipp.

The Oakland-based force is made up of members from 14 different agencies including Berkeley and Oakland Fire.

The Governor, and local officials insist the deployment does not draw from resources to fight the ongoing wildfires across the state.

"We're challenged and stretched thin just like every other agency in the state of California, but we have made a commitment to the federal government," said Freeman.

Sunday's deployment comes 16 years after all eight of California's FEMA search and rescue forces were deployed to the flooded city of New Orleans.

It's never easy for families to say goodbye..

"It takes special people to be able to let their loved ones go on a mission such as this," said Lipp.

FEMA hasn't determined yet how long this deployment will be. But these Bay Area responders could be in the impacted area for up to three weeks.

Oakland's task force is one of 15 search and rescue teams FEMA has asked to help in Louisiana.

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