After 10 days of evacuating Hurricane Harvey victims, saving lives from rushing waters and offering smiles and water to those who lost everything, Miami Fire Rescue's 19-member task force returned home from Texas on Wednesday — just in time for Hurricane Irma.
“We are going to celebrate your safe return, and then we are going to put you back to work,” Miami Fire Chief Joseph Zahralban told the group.
With Category 5 Irma looming, the team knows its break will be short-lived.
“There isn’t much time in between, but this is what we train for,” said team member Miguel Ferrer, a captain with Davie Fire Rescue. “Regardless of what comes our way, we are resilient.”
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City of Miami Fire Rescue Urban Search and Rescue Task Force-2 left Miami Aug. 27, bringing boats, all-terrain vehicles, high-water trucks and other specialized equipment for swift water rescue in heavily impacted areas of Texas.
In the 10-day span, the team helped a woman in labor, evacuated more than 40 adults, seniors and kids and 10 animals and rescued a tow-truck driver who got swept away by the current.
Four days into the mission, team members were in the Beaumont area of Texas, putting away their boats and equipment for the day, when they spotted a truck headed toward a road that had been washed out by the floods.
“The crew went into full-speed-ahead, got into the water ... got to him,” said Miami Chief Scott Dean, who was the task force team leader. “Sixty, maybe 90 seconds max is what he had left before he would have been swept downstream and drowned.”
While the team was satisfied with its mission, members were ready to come home, see their families, secure their own homes and help their neighbors. A couple said anxiety levels were high on the way home.
“Nothing can prepare you for seeing that kind of devastation,” Ferrer said. “I just hope we don’t see that again.”
City of Miami Assistant Chief Pete Gomez thanked the team and then offered some friendly advice: “Hurry up, go take a shower, get ready, you are about to get deployed again.”