BOONE COUNTY, Mo. - 47 members of Missouri Task Force One returned home to cheers from family members Wednesday morning.
The crew had been deployed for 13 days in Houston, helping with rescue missions after Hurricane Harvey made landfall. The team consisted of 43 members, two live-find dogs and two human remains detection dogs.
During their time in Houston, the team, funded by FEMA, was assigned missions daily and worked with local first responders to carry out the missions.
"We did some boat operations where we put our boat crews, our swift water techs, in boats and went down to the affected areas driving up the streets," Task Force One leader, Randy Sanders, said. "If someone needed assistance or needed out, we would evacuate them or check their homes."
Sanders said the water levels were a concern for his team members.
"(The city was) releasing some of the water from the reservoirs, they did that twice a day," Sanders said. "So we would go into an affected area that might be four or five feet deep and before we left it might be seven feet deep. So getting my vehicles and my crews in and out at the evening time was definitely a concern of mine. The water sneaks up very quick."
The return to Missouri comes as another team may be sent out to help with Hurricane Irma. MOTF-1 already has one members in Puerto Rico and another in the U.S. Virgin Islands to relay information to the team in Missouri.
"So now we look at Hurricane Irma, predicted to hit Florida Saturday into Sunday," Gale Blomenkamp, with the Boone County Fire Protection District, said. "There’s already been nine teams activated. We’re on that same list so the potential for us to go out again is pretty high."
Blomenkamp said MO-TF1 could be headed to Florida as soon as Wednesday night if necessary.
The team has been in staging the last few days and was able to check their equipment and replace and repair what needed to be.
"The trucks are ready to go, the equipment’s loaded," Blomenkamp said. "We'll leave the equipment on the trucks for the next several days, there’s no need to unload it if we think we’ll be going. We could do a quick turn around time today or tomorrow."
A roster for the Irma team is already made up and members will know within 24 hours if they are on it. Some of the members who just returned from Harvey are also on the Irma roster.