Roseville fire chief pivotal in hurricane, earthquake responses

Did you know the person in charge of deploying federal search and rescue teams to major disasters is right here in our own backyard?

Did you know the person in charge of deploying federal search and rescue teams to major disasters is right here in our own backyard?

Roseville Fire Chief Rick Bartee wears many hats, including father and husband, but he's also the National Representative for all of FEMA's 28 Urban Search and Rescue task forces. That accounts for some 6,000 people, Bartee said.

In short, he's the guy who sends FEMA's search and rescue crews to disaster locations.

Bartee has seen a lot in his career of more than three decades, which started at the Phoenix Fire Department, most recently as assistant chief, and led him to Roseville's department in 2015.

"I responded to 9/11. Spent over 16 days on the pile itself, working there," Bartee told ABC10. "Hurricane Katrina, we were there for over two weeks, dealing with that flooding disaster."

While serving at those two fire departments, he also worked his way up through FEMA's Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Team.

Most recently, he spent more than three weeks responding to Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Puerto Rico and the islands of St. John and St. Thomas. He worked alongside the FEMA US&R Task Forces he deployed there.

"Those task forces are made up of 80 members. Most of them were fire fighters, police officers, EMTs, paramedics, doctors, structural engineers," he explained.

He returned home to his family in Roseville on Saturday, but now he's preparing more task forces to respond to Hurricane Maria, which has rocked Puerto Rico once again.

A task force from LA County got deployed to central Mexico, in the wake of the deadly earthquake Tuesday afternoon.

"What you see there, what's going on in Mexico is what our bread and butter is, as far as building collapse and breaching and breaking and tunneling and listening devices that we'll bring along," he said.

RELATED (VIDEO): Locals being impacted by earthquake in Mexico

Modern search and rescue technique used in the aftermath of earthquakes, he said, are largely thanks to California. Of the nation's 28 US&R task forces, eight of them are in this state.

"You know, during the earthquakes here, they realized all the different tools - breaching, breaking, stabilizing, listening devices - kind of come out of what we've got going on here in California, with the same potential for earthquakes," he said.

People can survive in open pockets that remain in a building collapse, he said, so not all hope is lost for recovering survivors in central Mexico.

"There's been a lot of miracles where people have lived for over seven days, you know, babies up to two weeks," Bartee said. "You just never know."

RELATED (VIDEO): Rescue efforts happening in Mexico following earthquake

While he won't be responding to these most recent disasters - Hurricane Maria and the central Mexico earthquake - part of Sacramento's FEMA US&R task force is prepared to deploy to Puerto Rico, including two of the members of his department.

FEMA reimburses the city for the time he and his employees are away responding to disasters.

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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