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Central Valley firefighters sent to help with earthquake relief efforts


The 30 fire personnel sent to Ridgecrest represent five different agencies

FRESNO, California — As with every natural disaster in the state, crews from around the Central Valley are ready to lend their hand. State agencies activated mutual aid after the first earthquake on Thursday, but local crews didn’t get called until Friday’s earthquake hit.

30 fire personnel from Fresno, Merced and Tulare counties make up Regional Task Force 5. Some hit the road to Ridgecrest around midnight Saturday, the rest followed two hours later.

By 6 a.m., they all began to do their part in the overall mission.

We’ll continue to be here for the long-term, now transitioning from response into recovery,” said Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. “[We’re] beginning to do damage assessment throughout the area.”

Battalion chief Brian Price is one of the 12 members of the Fresno Fire Department lending a hand. He said the Central Valley crews are mainly checking homes in northern Ridgecrest.

“[We’re checking] to make sure if there was any damaged gas lines, broken water lines, water heaters knocked off their exhaust — any hazards that would be naturally occurring as a result of an earthquake,” Price said. “We go around and mitigate them.”

Regional Task Force 5 will be down there at least through the weekend. Price said the community has already welcomed them with open arms, with many saying thank you and even offering things like water.

“It reminds you about how good the human spirit is. Whenever you see folks who are in need of help demonstrating gratefulness and appreciation to [first responders] — it’s really pretty humbling,” he said.

No American Red Cross volunteers from the greater Fresno area are down in Kern County at this time. However, a spokesman for the chapter said volunteers are ready to take the call when it comes.

The Los Angeles chapter is handling the shelter in Ridgecrest, at last check nearly 80 people are using it right now.

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