More than 600 guard members have been called up to fight wildfires burning out of control in the state. They’ve dropped more than 750,000 gallons of water on the fires by helicopter.
Even as the firefighting continues, two small teams with the Oregon Air National Guard’s 125th Special Tactics Squadron are being sent on a very different mission: assisting the relief effort in Texas.
They’re among a handful of teams from the Pacific Northwest deploying as flood levels from Hurricane Harvey, now a tropical storm, continue to rise.
Stephen Bomar, a spokesman for the Oregon Military Department, says the Air National Guard is sending 15 people, including pararescue experts, often called PJs, who have received specialized search and rescue training.
“One of their missions they’ll be doing is rescue operations; they take equipment such as zodiac boats into high-level water areas and are able to get people out,” Bomar said.
The U.S. Coast Guard has also deployed teams to assist with rescue helicopter operations, including some based in the Pacific Northwest.
Chief Petty Officer David Mosely said about 20 people from Oregon and Washington have been deployed to the Houston area.
“The response in Texas is of such a large nature that the Coast Guard is pulling resources from all around the country,” he said. “We had crews depart starting Saturday, more personnel left this morning, and we have a staggered movement of people throughout the next 24 hours.”
The deployment included Coast Guard personnel from Warrenton, Oregon Port Angeles, Washington, and 13th District Coast Guard headquarters in Seattle.
Coast Guard officials say they’ve rescued more than 1,400 people since Hurricane Harvey made landfall.
Eight Oregon health care workers are also being deployed to Texas as part of a national emergency response program.