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Monday, March 25 , 2019, 1:59 am | Fair 50º


Santa Barbara County Firefighter Eric Gray, Search Dog Riley Headed to Nepal in Aftermath of Quake

Santa Barbara County firefighter Eric Gray and search dog Riley are one of six Southern California search teams en route to Nepal to assist with earthquake recovery and rescue.
Santa Barbara County firefighter Eric Gray and search dog Riley are one of six Southern California search teams en route to Nepal to assist with earthquake recovery and rescue. (National Disaster Search Dog Foundation photo)

Six canine-firefighter search teams trained by the nonprofit National Disaster Search Dog Foundation in Ojai have been deployed to Nepal following Saturday’s deadly 7.9-magnitude earthquake.

The death toll from the quake had risen to more than 3,200 by early Monday.

The teams were to leave Sunday night on military transport planes from March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County and are expected to arrive in Kathmandu on Monday.

They will be part of a 57-member team assisting the U.S. Agency for International Development and its Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance with rescue and recovery efforts.

Virginia Task Force 1, the other task force that deploys internationally, is already in the air and also expected to arrive in Nepal early Monday.

The six teams include firefighter Eric Gray and search dog Riley of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

Riley had been surrendered to South Bay Purebred Rescue in San Jose when the family he was with could no longer care for him. He was adopted out, but was too much to handle for this next family who took him in.

They found out about the Search Dog Foundation, and disaster search turned out to be the perfect job for this over-active Lab. He was partnered with Gray in 2009. The team was deployed to Japan after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and has assisted in other local rescue efforts.

The teams deploying with Gray and Riley are based in Los Angeles and are all trained by the Search Dog Foundation:

» Dennis Clark and Rugby

» Gary Durian and Tanker

» Ron Horetski and Pearl

» Andy Olvera and Stetson

» Jason Vasquez and Ripley

“I just got your message about Rugby deploying to Nepal,” said Debra Geiger, the donor who named this beautiful chocolate Lab. “I burst into tears like a proud parent.”

This is what these firefighters and their canine partners train for all year long: finding people buried alive, conscious or unconscious, under the wreckage of a disaster.

Click here for more information about the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation. Click here to make an online donation.

— Janet Reineck is communications director for the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation.

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