Firefighters from agencies throughout Riverside County were working Monday to assist hurricane victims in storm-ravaged Puerto Rico.

Members of Task Force 6, a Federal Emergency Management Agency- designated Urban Search & Rescue Team, arrived in San Juan on Sunday to provide medical care, rescue and recovery services and a variety of humanitarian relief.

Personnel from the Riverside, Riverside County and Pechanga fire departments are among the 27 task force members involved.

“This is a devastating time for the people of Puerto Rico,” Pechanga Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro said. “Pechanga has always strived to support those in need through various fundraisers and charities, and now through the direct support of rescue relief efforts. We hope this support can bring at least a small sense of comfort to victims of this latest natural disaster.”

Puerto Rico took a direct hit from Hurricane Maria at the end of last week, knocking out electricity and telecommunications systems to virtually the entire island nation and wreaking devastation in multiple communities.

Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rossello told reporters that at least 15,000 people were homeless as of Sunday. Damage is estimated to be in excess of $8 billion.

The island also suffered when Hurricane Jose, which has since been downgraded to a tropical storm, took a swipe at it earlier this month.

The first responders from Task Force 6 are utilizing K9 teams, paramedics, logistics experts and hazardous materials specialists in their deployment to Puerto Rico.

“With no electricity and severe flooding, this mission will be extremely challenging,” said task force spokesman Dave McClellan, a Riverside Fire Department captain. “The team members are the best of the best and have trained many years for such a deployment.”

More than a dozen members of the Urban Search & Rescue Team also deployed to the Houston metropolitan area for roughly two weeks in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

–City News Service

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