Bay Area swift water rescue team helps in Houston

- Swift water rescue crews jump into raging flood waters without question. They face obvious dangers and some not visible above the water.

Now, the Bay Area Swift Water Rescue Team is in Houston, battling some of the worst conditions they may ever see.

"You got trees, road signs, vehicles, anything that could impale or grab ahold of you," says Kenneth Huff, a district chief with Tampa Fire Rescue.

He's describing the dangers of swift water rescue where firefighters, using ropes and other equipment, come to rescue people stranded by high water.

They usually find motorists caught in strong flooding that's overtaken a roadway. 

The swift water team in the Bay Area is comprised of firefighters from Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Hillsborough County.

For years they've trained in places like Busch Gardens, but now 25 members of the team are in the Houston area facing the real thing.

"You're anxious to take your skill sets and put them in motion and see if they can be effective in helping others because that's why we do this," says Huff.

Other first responders from our area are also helping. A spokesman says 200 people were rescued by Florida Wildlife Officers who traveled to Texas with 40 boats and other equipment.

Four helicopters and 55 crew members from the Coast Guard air station in Clearwater rescued 67 people, according to a spokesman.

Coast Guard video showed people being lifted in baskets from flooded homes into choppers.

Retired Coast Guard pilot John Mixon, who flew during Katrina, says those rescues are worth the risk.

"To look back over your shoulder and seeing those people in the cabin knowing they're gonna be safe when otherwise they wouldn't be is the reward," he says.

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