SALT LAKE COUNTY – Volunteers from Utah are on their way to the East Coast to help with the expected damaged from Hurricane Florence.
16 members from Utah’s Task Force 1 got the call from FEMA Monday evening and mobilized to Bowling Green, Virginia at around 3 a.m. Tuesday.
“We have 12 from Unified Fire Authority, two from Salt Lake City Fire Department, and 1 from Park City Fire Department,” said Ryan Love, Unified Fire Authority spokesperson.
The team specializes in swift water rescues.
“The challenges are absolutely different depending on terrain,” said Love. “Here in the mountain region, we’re looking at more of a swift water type operation. There where it’s more flat in the coastal region, we’re looking at a storm surge. So, this could be inches of water that we’re dealing with.”
Forecasters think there could be record-setting storm surges from Hurricane Florence and heavy rains leading to widespread flooding.
“It’s hard to know what’s going to happen in these mid-Atlantic states,” said Love.
There are mandatory evacuation orders for more than a million people living in coastal areas ahead of Florence. It’s expected to make landfall Thursday.
“We did have the opportunity to offer our services to Hurricane Harvey. That’s kind of what we’re modeling our expectation after right now,” said Love.
Deploying a smaller unit has advantages. With fewer numbers, Love says the team can deploy within hours of getting the call.
“We carry less equipment so we’re more mobile. We are also still self-sufficient for up to 72 hours which helps the local municipalities so we don’t create such a disturbance while we’re there.”
It’s unclear how long their mission will last.
“Right now we’re expecting a 2-day travel and hopefully a day’s rest,” said Love. “When we get there they may reassign us depending on what’s going on with the storm.”
In order for these task force members from Unified Fire Authority to leave their day jobs for two weeks, their off-duty colleagues here at home are picking up their shifts.