Chula Vista firefighters head to Hawaii for hurricane relief

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KAUAI, Hawaii – As Hurricane Lane bears down on Hawaii, three dozen people from California were preparing Wednesday to leave for the islands to help in the relief effort.

The California Task Force 8 will be sending 35 members to Kauai before Hurricane Lane, which strengthened to a Category 5 storm early Wednesday. Four Chula Vista firefighters are among the highly trained, highly specialized FEMA Urban Search and Rescue team.

"There are times we get in right before a hurricane is happening. We often get in during scary and serious situations, but we’re trained and that’s what we do," San Diego Fire-Rescue Deputy Chief John Wood said.

Hurricanes rarely make landfall in Hawaii, as the Central Pacific does not see as many storms as the Atlantic or Eastern Pacific, and the Hawaiian Islands present a small target in the vast Pacific Ocean.

Only four named storms -- two hurricanes and two tropical storms -- have made landfall in Hawaii since 1959. Even close calls are somewhat rare, with Hawaii getting a named storm within 60 miles of its coastline about once every four years on average.

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