With Hurricane Lane now pummeling Hawaii’s Big Island with flooding described as catastrophic, rescue teams from around the world are descending on the Aloha State, including some from the San Francisco Bay Area.
“The sponge is full,” is how forecaster Chevy Chevalier described it, meaning the 35 inches of rain in 48 hours had completely saturated the island as residents as well as first-responders were coping with torrential rains and storm surges along the state’s coastlines.
Among the rescuers was Ed Martinez and his faithful sidekick, a Black Lab mix named Fritz, both of them with the San Francisco Fire Department and dispatched to Hawaii this week with the Menlo Park-based California Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 3. The team members are veterans in the global rescue community, having responded last September to Hurricane Irma which devastated much of the Florida Keys.
Denise Sanders, a spokeswoman for the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation in Santa Paula, California, which trained many of the search dogs now dispatched to Hawaii, said Friday morning she was still waiting for reports on the ground from Martinez and his fellow crew members. On Thursday, Sanders said ” as of this morning, the teams have safely landed in Hawaii and are waiting for the storm to pass. There is no guarantee that the dogs will be needed but this is a preemptive measure to be sure the teams are in place in case local authorities need assistance in the aftermath of the storm.”
In 2014, Fritz was picked up as a stray by animal control in Eugene, Oregon, said Sanders. “The officers were sure that someone would claim this sweet dog as their lost pet, but no one ever showed up. When no one claimed him, Fritz was transferred to Greenhill Shelter in Eugene, where SDF Canine Recruiter Kirsten Fulk found and evaluated him for SDF. After completing the battery of tests, Fritz passed with flying colors and Kirsten knew she had found a winner.”
Sanders said Fritz was eventually paired up with firefighter Martinez, assigned to Task Force 3 in September 2015. “They achieved FEMA Certification a short six months later and are now eligible to deploy nationwide in the event of a disaster,” she added.
Born Dec. 11, 2013, Fritz was eventually taken by Kirsten Fulk to her Field of Dreams Boarding & Training Kennel and then sponsored by The Joel and Dena Gambord Charitable Foundation. “After completing the battery of tests, Fritz passed with flying colors and Kirsten knew she had found a winner,” says Fritz’ biography on the rescue group’s website.
“Kirsten took Fritz home with her to her kennel, where he lived for a week or so alongside fellow Search Dog candidate Minnie while they waited to make the drive to SDF’s National Training Center in Santa Paula, CA,” says the report. “When Kirsten and her traveling companions arrived at the National Training Center in January 2015, SDF Master Trainer Sonja Heritage immediately completed a formal evaluation of both Fritz and Minnie. She noticed right away that he had a softer personality, but he LOVED to bark!”
The bio says Fritz moved through his training quickly and “really enjoyed finding the hidden ‘victims’ and barking for his toy.”
Sander’s organization’s motto is “From Rescuer . . . to Rescued” and the non-profit group’s mission is “to strengthen disaster response in America by rescuing and recruiting dogs and partnering them with firefighters and other first responders to find people buried alive in the wreckage of disasters.”
Here’s a shot of Martinez and Fritz, top-right, from the group’s Facebook page:
Along with this photo posted earlier this week, the foundation issued a “Deployment Alert,” saying “Canine Disaster Search Teams from California Task Force 3 – Urban Search & Rescue Team and San Diego Urban Search & Rescue – California Task Force 8 (CA-TF8) have been activated to deploy for #HurricaneLane, a category 4 storm currently headed for the Hawaiian islands. SDF-trained teams Brent Brainard & Decker, Linda D’Orsi & Haley (both CA-TF8), and Ed Martinez & Fritz (CA-TF3) are preparing to respond, along with teammates from their task forces, including Search Team Teressa Harnois & Phoxie (Maranatha Farm Kennels). We wish these task forces the best of luck and will share updates as we receive them as Hawaii braces to be hit by this storm over the next few days.”