Bay Area rescue crews back home after helping with dam spillway

MENLO PARK (BCN)— A group of rescue personnel with the Menlo Park Fire Protection District returned home Monday night, after having spent a day near Oroville to assist with the possible dam failure happening there.
   
The fire district's Swift Water Rescue Team was deployed the area in Butte County, after the Governor's Office of Emergency Services on Sunday activated a response by all state-sponsored Swift Water Rescue Teams.
   
The fire district's team consisted of a 14-person water rescue team and a fire mechanic. The team was also equipped with three inflatable boats and two power watercrafts, fire district officials said.
   
The team then arrived early Monday morning, along with a team from the Oakland Fire Department. Rescue crews from Marin County, Stockton and
Sacramento later joined them.
   
"It's been a whirlwind 24 hours for the team and no one's complaining that tragedy has been avoided for now, we're all thankful for that," the district's Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman said in a statement.
   
Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes Sunday because of the threat of a spillway collapse at the Oroville Dam.
   
This afternoon, the Butte County Sheriff's Office said that evacuated residents could return home, since the immediate evacuation order had been reduced to an evacuation warning due to lower lake levels and ongoing work to shore-up the dam's emergency spillway.
   
Residents however are advised to remain prepared for the possibility of another evacuation order, sheriff's officials said.
   
While a storm is expected to descend upon the area later this week, the storm is forecasted to bring colder weather and less rain, resulting in potentially reduced water flow into the reservoir, according to the sheriff's department.
   
The Menlo Park Fire Protection District's team was last deployed to the area more than 20 years ago, in Jan. 1997, when levees in Yuba City failed, and teams from Menlo Park and Oakland helped rescue residents and pets over the course of several days, according to fire district officials.
   
"We lived that exact scenario 20 years ago when we last responded into Yuba City for a levee failure. It's hard to believe it's happening again, only worse based upon the actual damage to the dam," Schapelhouman said.

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