California Task Force 2 left Los Angeles International Airport around 11:15 p.m. Tuesday aboard a commercial airliner bound for Christchurch. The crew will assist in rescue operations in that nation's second-largest city, where a magnitude-6.3 earthquake killed more than 60 people.
At least 300 people were still missing early Wednesday, according to NBC News.
California Task Force 2 is a specially-trained and equipped Urban Search and Rescue team with 74 members, consisting of firefighters, paramedics and rescue specialists; along with emergency room physicians, structural engineers, heavy equipment specialists, hazardous materials technicians, communications specialists and logistics specialists.
The team also aided in search-and-rescue operations in Haiti.
"We have a lot of structures that look like buildings here," said Capt. Bryan Wells. "A lot of the damage looks like a Loma Prieta-type earthquake where some buildings are still standing but other buildings are damaged severely. Whereas in Haiti, everything was pretty much wiped out."
The team responds with 55,000 pounds of prepackaged search-and-rescue tools and medical equipment. Personnel can conduct search-and-rescue operations at domestic and international disasters, both natural and man-made.
The team received the request for assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development, and was staging Tuesday at the fire department's USAR facility in Pacoima.