San Diego crews ready to help with hurricane relief

City News Service

San Diego first responders and aid groups will be watching Hurricane Irene Saturday and are ready to respond to requests for help from the East Coast.

The storm’s track was headed up the Eastern Seaboard and expected to wash over the biggest population centers in the country, possibly inundating lower Manhattan. The last major hurricane to hit New York City was in 1938.

Maurice Luque of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department said his agency had specialized teams ready to go into action if needed. Local firefighters were sent to the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina and to New York after the 9/11 attacks.

San Diego-based International Relief Teams, which still has aide workers in Mississippi helping Katrina victims, is also gearing up to pitch in, Diana Starnes of the group said.

Brittany Gotschall, of the American Red Cross, San Diego and Imperial Counties Chapter, said it will be up to ARC chapters at the scene to call in reinforcements.

The first efforts to help will come from nearby chapters, and then calls will go out for specialized assistance, Gotschall said.

She said ARC groups in the Midwest have already sent supplies to the East Coast.

“At the moment, we’re standing by to see what’s needed,’' Gotschall said.