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Roseville fire chief among emergency responders in deadly Kentucky flooding

Roseville Fire Chief Rick Bartee has been in Kentucky for the last few weeks as a support team leader for FEMA Urban Search and Rescue.

ROSEVILLE, Calif. — At least 38 people have died in the flooding in Kentucky that started at the end of July after 8-10.5" of rain fell in only 48 hours.

Since then, people from all over the country have responded to the disaster, including Roseville's Fire Chief.

For the past couple of weeks, Rick Bartee has been in Kentucky as a support team leader for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Urban Search and Rescue.

The Roseville Fire Department is part of California Task Force 7, which also includes the Sacramento Fire Department, the Folsom Fire Department and others. These teams have special training that can include collapse rescue, heavy rigging, hazardous materials, canine search teams, technical search, and other training.

Bartee said he's been a member of the FEMA Urban Search and Rescue division since 1992. He's responded to multiple emergencies including 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. He also responded to the December tornadoes in Kentucky to assist local agencies with search and rescue operations.

Credit: AP
In this aerial image, the river is still high around the homes in Breathitt County, Ky., on Saturday, July 30, 2022. Recovery has begun in many of the narrow hollers after historic rains flooded many areas of Eastern Kentucky killing more at least two dozen people. A layer of mud from the retreating waters covers many cars and homes. (Michael Clevenger/Courier Journal via AP)

Kentucky governor Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency on July 28 due to the severe flooding.

"The most catastrophic part about this is that the flooding happened at night time and a lot of folks weren't able to respond to the warnings that were coming as the rivers and creeks were rising," Bartee said.

Bartee said what the search and rescue teams have been dealing with is assisting with evacuations or getting people who are stranded out of the area, and then be assisting with looking for those who are missing or are reported missing.

"There are quite a few folks who were caught up in the water themselves from debris being caught up from all houses moving down, the water, cars, anything that could move that that water hit it moved it," Bartee said.

There was a flood watch for Eastern Kentucky on Wednesday, but Bartee said going into next week they're expecting drier weather and he could be back in Roseville next Friday.

"Kentucky is a very wet state and has had a bit of rain to where the ground is so soaked that it can't absorb any more water," Bartee said. "That's why that water doesn't stay where it's at."

Bartee said while federal assets will likely be released soon, FEMA will be in Kentucky for the long haul.

"All these folks are impacted. It's going to take up to years for them to get their lives back in order, so just keep them in your thoughts and prayer," Bartee said.

He said he brings back the skills and experience he gets responding to these disasters to California and applies it to other instances like flooding or mudslides in burn scar areas.

"I can't emphasize enough how we bring what we learn back to our local localities where we work. And if we ever have an incident like that, we're better prepared to be able to handle those incidents."

For information on how to donate to help survivors of the flooding, click HERE.

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