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L.A. fire rescue team poised to leave for Haiti to aid earthquake victims

January 13, 2010 |  7:21 am

An L.A. County Fire Department search-and-rescue team is packed and ready to go to Haiti following a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that rocked the Caribbean island nation, officials said this morning.

The 72-member heavy rescue task force received a request for help Tuesday from the U.S. Agency for International Development and is waiting at a staging area in Pacoima while authorities finalize the logistical details of the deployment, said county Fire Inspector Frederic Stowers.

“These things do take time,” he said. “A lot of it has to do with surveying the damage, making sure we can get them in safely.”

Relief officials said they were preparing for substantial damage and casualties after Haiti was rocked by the quake, the largest ever to strike the region. The county fire team includes paramedics, search dogs, communications specialists and rescuers who are trained in combing through collapsed structures to find victims.

The rescuers rely on sophisticated detection devices and equipment capable of shoring weakened structures and moving heavy chunks of rubble, officials said.

“They have three flat-bed semis loaded with over 48,000 pounds of supplies and tools and materials that they will need to be able to complete their mission,” Stowers said. “Their state of readiness is immediate.”

It has not yet been decided whether the team will be flying out of a military or commercial airport.

-- Alexandra Zavis

Photo: Equipment and supplies are being loaded on trucks at the Los Angeles County Fire Department urban search and rescue facility in Pacoima en route to Haiti in the aftermath of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

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