Note: In the videos, Laura was still considered a tropical storm at the time. We will update the videos referring to the storm as a hurricane as soon as possible.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — Nearly 30 people from the Austin Fire Department and Austin-Travis County EMS are headed to the coast to help with Hurricane Laura.
The storm was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday by the National Hurricane Center, and is expected to make landfall late Wednesday into early Thursday morning, and it could hit land anywhere between Houston and southwest Louisiana, the latest models show.
Both Galveston and Port Arthur have issued evacuation notices and are asking residents to leave town by 12 p.m. Tuesday.
Between the Austin Fire Department and Austin-Travis County EMS, nearly 30 people were sent the coast to assist. A total of 13 people from AFD — six for a boat team, two helicopter rescue personnel, and five urban search and rescue specialists. From ATCEMS, a crew of 14 is on the way, including boat squads and emergency medical personnel.
The crews will work with Texas A&M Task Force-1 along with other state agencies. Both AFD and ATCEMS officials said this will not affect local resources.
AFD Assistant Fire Chief Andre de la Reza said they have enough folks to fill those temporary vacancies. They take into account the staff they’re sending to the coast and list them as “off.” This allows them to fill in the gaps with other personnel.
De la Reza said this comes at no cost to the city that because the state will pay those who are sent to assist. The state will also pay for the crews ATCEMS is sending to help.
“This is not in any way putting a strain on our resources here at home we are still and always will be more than capable of handling business here in the city and the county,” Capt. Christa Stedman, with Austin-Travis County EMS said.
De la Reza adding to that saying, “The Austin Fire Department strives to always be able to support our neighboring communities in their time of need after careful risk-benefit analysis to guarantee that the citizens and residents of Austin are properly taken care of.”
Currently, ATCEMS has 50 floaters — clinical specialists and medics — they’re able to use them to fill in for those who are helping our neighbors along the coast.
Local crews are also being sent to California to help battle the massive wildfires.
The Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System sent two strike teams consisting of 12 trucks and 44 people.
Because of COVID-19, there are some procedural changes. Both strike teams will get a COVID-19 test and more personal protective equipment.
The last time Texas sent resources to California was back in 2018.