Utah firefighters rush to Louisiana to help with Hurricane Laura relief

Dozens of Utah firefighters are traveling nearly 1,700 miles to Louisiana to help those affected by Hurricane Laura — which slammed into the state early Thursday as a fierce Category 4 storm — including some Salt Lake City firefighters who helped after Hurricane Katrina 15 years ago.

Eighty members of Unified Fire’s Task Force One, joined by members of six other departments and some civilian helpers like doctors and engineers, prepared Wednesday night for deployment to Baton Rouge, Deseret News reported.

“FEMA reached out to us [as] Utah has some of 28 urban search and rescue teams,” Unified Fire assistant chief Riley Pilgrim told the paper.

“We can deploy up to 90 people, and we will respond to natural disasters, such as a hurricane. We’ll go out there with a full complement of tools and equipment. We have boats, water rescue capabilities, medical training, and we basically go out there to support the local responders, and then we step in if they become overwhelmed and start facilitating more advanced rescues and other operations like that.”

Photos posted to Twitter by the Salt Lake City Fire Department, which says its firefighters also went to Louisiana 15 years ago to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, shows the first responders ready to head out with their duffel bags and backpacks.

Nineteen firefighters from that department are headed to the Bayou State, according to the tweet.

The storm packed winds of 150 mph when it came ashore at 1 a.m. near Cameron, a 400-person community about 30 miles east of the Texas border.

It then weakened into a still-powerful Category 2 storm that can still cause an “unsurvivable” wall of water 40 miles inland, the National Hurricane Center said.

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