PIQUA — A local firefighter returned this week after helping in the relief effort in Texas during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey as part of Ohio Task Force 1.
“We were called out on the 24th of August,” Captain Kevin Ganger of the Piqua Fire Department said.
The task force was in Texas for almost 12 days. They were first staged in San Antonio when Hurricane Harvey touched down.
“It was hitting when we got there,” Ganger said.
The task force then moved to Rob’s Town, Texas, in the Corpus Christi area before being staged in Katy, Texas, which is approximately 30 miles west of Houston.
“We helped evacuate a nursing home,” Ganger said. “We helped search areas.”
At one point, they worked to salvage a fire engine that had been stuck underneath a collapsed building.
The task force, which is funded and managed through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), responded to calls as needed to supplement the local relief efforts. Overall, the task force performed 173 rescues and 40 animal rescues in addition to searching 52 square miles.
“The people of Texas were very appreciative of any help we gave them,” Ganger said.
He said that they performed quite a few boat rescues and that a number of trucks that they brought with them broke down in the area. Ganger said one of their pickup trucks was still in Houston because the stress of their rescue efforts ruined the transmission.
For many of the members of the task force, these types of rescue efforts are actions they have trained for and are prepared to do as part of their every day jobs, as most of them are firefighters.
“It’s what we do,” Ganger said, adding that about 90 percent of the people on the task force are firefighters. In regard to all of the task force members, Ganger said, “They step up, and they’re willing to leave their families to go and assist.”
The task force has 210 members, and approximately 48 of those members took part in the Hurricane Harvey relief effort.
In regard to Hurricane Irma, Ganger said that the task force hasn’t been deployed yet, but there’s a chance that they will respond.
“The system is going to be heavily used before this hurricane is over,” Ganger said.
Ganger said that the task force is a Type 3 FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Task Force that has been in service since 1992, and Ganger has been a member of the task force since 2002.
“It’s always good to help somebody that’s in need. There’s a great group of people willing to help,” Ganger said.
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org or (937) 451-3336