Fireman, canine companion flying east to assist in rescue

By Hank Sims Daily Planet staff
Wednesday September 12, 2001

Two members of the Berkeley Fire Department are about to fly east to assist in search and rescue operations in either New York or Washington, D.C. 

The two are Darren Bobrosky, an apparatus operator at Fire Station 5 on Shattuck Avenue, and Bobrosky’s partner, a 6-year old, highly-trained German Shephard named Dylan. 

Bobrosky and Dylan are both members of an Urban Search and Rescue team based in Oakland. The team, which works with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has been placed on alert and is expected to fly out of Travis Air Force Base today. 

Reached at his home Tuesday evening, Bobrosky said that he has been on the phone all day, talking with other members of his team and trying to get solid information about when and where they would be traveling. 

Bobrosky said that while there was no time certain for his departure, all indications were that they would be leaving within 24 hours. 

“I’m nervous, but this is what we’ve been trained to do,” he said. “I just wish we were going right now.” 

Throughout Bobrosky’s conversation with the Daily Planet, Dylan could be heard woofing in the background. 

“He’s ready to roll,” Bobrosky said. 

USAR teams are special task forces organized by FEMA to assist in rescue operations when a major emergency – an earthquake or other natural catastrophe, or a terrorist attack – strikes an American city. Each team has 56 members, which include structural engineers, paramedics and radio operators as well as dog handlers. Every member of a USAR team has been certified by FEMA as an emergency response specialist.  

Bobrosky said that there are only 100 dogs in the country to have undergone the rigorous training – which can take several years – that urban search dogs receive. He said that Dylan has been trained specifically to “recognize the scent of live human beings” through as much as 100 feet of rubble, and to give a distinctive bark when he does.  

“The dogs do this job better than any kind of machinery, or technology,” Bobrosky said. “They’re as close to 100 percent accurate as you can get.” 

Though they have been certified USAR specialists for three and one-half years, this will be the first emergency that Bobrosky and Dylan will have worked on. Bobrosky said that Dylan didn’t require much equipment – a harness to lower him into broken concrete, a blanket to keep him warm – but that what he needed was packed and ready to go. 

“We’re as prepared as we can get, and we are ready to help,” he said. 

Bobrosky credited the Berkeley Fire Department for its support of his emergency rescue work. He approached the BFD about developing a canine search capability several years ago and he said that the department has supported him throughout his training.  

“I appreciate all the support that he BFD has given to me and to the USAR,” he said.