California mobilizes Swift Water Rescue Teams statewide

The state of California has mobilized 31 special rescue teams across the state to help with flooding and other emergencies caused by the recent storms.

One of those teams, based in Oakland rescued two men early Wednesday morning after their truck was swept up by swift-running water.

It was dark and dangerous when the team arrived in Hollister and found the two people standing on top of a grey pickup truck surrounded by rushing water.

"Their vehicle started getting carried away by the amount of water that was flowing and ended up being in a river bed," said Oakland firefighter Cassie Hays, who is part of the special State Swift Water Rescue Team that was called to Hollister.

Rolling out long ladders and running support ropes for safety, the special unit went to work. They used one ladder as a temporary bridge. After getting life jackets for the two men, Hays and other members of the crew helped guide both of them across the running water.

"There's different hazards that we face during nighttime operations versus daytime operations. Visibility is obviously a lot more difficult. Identifying other hazards we might not see," said Kays.

Kays is part of Oakland Task Force 4, one of the special units that have been mobilized by the California Governor's Office of Emergency Management. Each task force consists of 16 members. The teams have been stationed statewide with extra resources.

"Extra equipment and specialized training. In this case, a lot of it is water rescue training, so we have extra boat capabilities, extra boat training," said Brian Fukuhara, an Oakland Fire Department firefighter on the task force.

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With rain continuing to overwhelm storm systems and creeks, causing flooding on roads, the task force says it's important for drivers to avoid areas where they can't see the road surface.

"The water level might be above the road and you can't see what's underneath. Sometimes the water is moving much faster than it appears to be and it can sweep your car away," said Paul Mason, a firefighter with the Oakland Fire Department.

The special swift water rescue teams are on standby in dozens of counties, partnering with CALFIRE and local sheriff's office teams.

"Right now it sounds like at least through the weekend as these parade of storms continue to roll through," said Kays.