Just days after they headed to Texas to help with the Hurricane Harvey relief, firefighters and first responders from all over the country are now heading to Florida this weekend to be in position to help those who will be affected by Hurricane Irma.
It was only Tuesday that Fairfax County firefighters, members of Virginia Task Force 1, returned from helping rescue victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas. On Wednesday, they prepared to head back into the eye of the new storm.
An 80-person group consisting of search-and-rescue specialists with K-9 partners, plus water rescue teams, are heading to Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, which they’ll use as a jump-off point to assist as Irma hits Florida this weekend.
First responders and other aid workers from the Philadelphia area are also expected to take part in recovery efforts if Hurricane Irma causes widespread destruction.
Members of Pennsylvania Task Force 1 also went to the Air Force base in Alabama, where FEMA will give them their marching orders. Two charter buses carrying 41 people and four dogs, plus three tractor trailers, department from a Tacony loading dock Wednesday on their way to Alabama to meet up with the rest of the Pennsylvania Task Force.
“The task force is basically a city, a rescue city,” said Rescue Squad manager George Drees. “We have doctors. We have structural engineers that assist us. We have hazardous materials technicians. We have logistics people.”
Forty members of the Philadelphia Fire Department, some who are coming from working with Hurricane Harvey victims, will be on loan to FEMA.
“This shows you how unprecedented this is, this season so far,” said Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel. “They don’t prepare for it, it’s what they do, they make it work, there’s nowhere these folks would rather be. So they’re going to continue to work as long as it takes to help our nation, represent the best of this city, the best of this Commonwealth. We will take care of their families and we will continue to take care of this city.”
FEMA is directing the rescue teams, and requested search and rescue dogs. The agency also picks up the tab for these members to go and takes care of these missions.
The same task force has responded to past hurricanes, including Katrina and Andrew, and to New York City on 9/11.
Firefighters from as far away as Colorado Springs have also moved from one big storm to another. On Tuesday night, the Colorado Springs Fire Department received word that some of its members would be headed to Alabama as part of Colorado Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue.
They arrived in Texas more than a week ago to help with Harvey recovery efforts. The convoy stopped in Russellville, Arkansas, on Wednesday night to rest. CO-TF1, a Federal Emergency Management Agency program, has been upgraded to an 80-person Type 1 Urban Search and Rescue team. Its members are trained in search and rescue, hazardous materials, medical and logistics.
Hundreds of Florida’s emergency responders are returning home to prepare for the largest hurricane ever to hit their state, just days after they headed to Texas to help with the Hurricane Harvey relief.
Some firefighters and paramedics face the task of jumping from one disaster to preparing for potentially another as their home state readies for a possible hit.
“That’s what we’re trained to do,” said Andy Popick, a Davie, Florida fire rescue battalion chief who flew to Dallas to aid in relief efforts. “You adapt and overcome obstacles.”
Popick, who’s team helped doctors treat injured evacuees in Dallas’s Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, returned home Monday from a trip with a federal Disaster Medical Response Team to help with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency also dispatched four search-and-rescue teams from Florida to Texas. The 110 firefighters started to head back home Tuesday, according to the Florida Fire Chiefs’ Association, which coordinates the teams.
They “finished their work in Texas and are now focused on Florida for the expected Hurricane Irma response,” said Otto Drozd III, the fire chiefs’ association president in a press release.
In two deployments during the last week of August, Gov. Rick Scott ordered about 130 officers and staffers from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission to respond to flooded residents in Texas affected by Hurricane Harvey.
The FWC responders who rescued about 500 Texans from submerged roads and properties began arriving back in Florida on Friday.
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