The Jefferson County team - making its first major deployment outside of the Louisville area - will supplement rescue units of Maryland's local and state agencies to respond to Hurricane Isabel.
"Flash flooding with something like this can be widespread," said Travis Bell, a firefighter with the fire department in Middletown, Ky., and the coordinator of the team. "Anything can be hit by a lot of water - creeks, floods, streams, people trying to cross flooded roadways, even neighborhoods can flood out."
Bell and the convoy were traveling east from Louisville yesterday afternoon and were hoping to arrive in Cumberland about midnight.
"We'll start in Cumberland, but we could end up in Hagerstown or even Prince George's County," said Capt. Sean Canto of the Harrods Creek Fire Department. "The water can move so quickly, so we'll be prepared to end up anywhere within 100 miles.
The Kentucky team includes five swift-water flood rescue specialists and 25 rescue technicians. Their equipment includes two inflatable powered rescue boats, two inflatable rescue rafts, two personal jet watercraft, two equipment trailers, an ambulance and several support vehicles, Breitenfeldt said. Ten of the 25 technicians are instructors in the Jefferson County training program.
The team is prepared to be self-sufficient for 72 hours. If its help is needed beyond the weekend, the firefighters probably would need additional food, water and other supplies from Maryland officials, Bell said.
The firefighters have been studying maps of Western Maryland and preparing for the trip for the past two days, ensuring they'll be ready as soon as they reach Cumberland, Canto said. They could be split into two teams if there's a need to do multiple rescues simultaneously.
"Most of us are pretty tired," Bell said. "A lot of the team is using the time on the road to catch up on sleep because I think we're going to be working pretty hard when we get to Maryland."
More than 50 members of the water rescue unit remained behind in Jefferson County, Canto said. The unit was expanded after major flooding hit the Louisville area in 1997, prompting local departments within the county to band together for training and planning.