Eighteen members of specially trained Urban Search and Rescue teams are being sent to help in the effort to find victims after Saturday’s deadly mudslide in Washington.
The experts were handpicked from fire departments in California and are being sent at the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to the California Office of Emergency Services.
The group includes eight specialists from the Riverside City Fire Department, four from the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, three from the Sacramento City Fire Department, two from the Los Angeles City Fire Department and one from the Orange County Fire Department.
The death toll has risen to 14 people while 176 people are still missing. The number of missing may decrease however, because some names may be duplicates, according to Cal OES Public Information Officer Lilly Wyatt.
Although the search and rescue mission has not yet shifted to a recovery mission, Snohomish County's Emergency Management Director told NBC News that a mortuary team has been requested.
The specialized USAR members were informed Monday around 8 p.m. that they will be deployed to Oso, Washington and were being briefed at their respective locations Tuesday morning.
"Time is ticking," Wyatt said. "At this time their only mission is to find more people that are alive."
Chief Ed Bushman of the LAFD is one of the specialists who was sent to Washington Tuesday morning, according to Capt. Jaime Moore. Bushman will serve as a planning chief. His duties will include planning the search and recovery mission after mud, trees and rocks destroyed 30 homes and nearly a mile of State Route 530, northeast of Seattle.
Bushman "will deal with the aftermath of the incident" and aid with the recovery of the city, Moore said.
Recent rain conditions and saturated soil are to blame for the large landslide, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The American Red Cross is providing food and shelter to Oso residents, families and first responders dealing with the aftermath of the mudslide.
President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency on March 22.