Task Force 1 deploys to North Carolina ahead of Hurricane Florence
COLUMBIA - Missouri Task Force 1 deployed to Raleigh, North Carolina at around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday ahead of Hurricane Florence.
FEMA gave orders for deployment to Boone County Fire Protection District late Monday night. This morning, 47 volunteers from across Missouri showed up to be part of the Task Force deployment: 37 personnel and 10 ground support personnel. Three task members already deployed to North Carolina on Monday as part of an Incident Support Team.
The team is traveling nearly 956 miles to Raleigh with more than 100,000 pounds of equipment. Gale Blomenkamp, Assistant Chief of the Boone County Fire Protection District, said the amount of equipment they're bringing will affect their travels.
"First order of business is getting there safely," Blomenkamp said. "It's normally a 15 hour drive, but when you're taking a convoy and this much gear, it will probably be a 24 hour transport."
Once the team arrives in Raleigh Wednesday morning, Blomenkamp said it will wait for an assignment from FEMA.
"They will be positioned to where they can make effective water rescues, anticipate flood areas, and as the storm approaches, they'll have a better idea of what the problems are going to be," Blomenkamp said.
Mike Knipping is a Rescue Squad Officer for this deployment. He said every time he is sent to a disaster, it's an original and exciting situation.
"I can't wait to get out the door," Knipping said. "I'm a fireman, so by nature, I like to help people. This is an extension of that."
Knipping started in 2006 with the Task Force. He said his favorite part is getting to know the other members and creating relationships with the communities they help.
"We go at a time when they need the most help," Knipping said. "Our biggest job here with Missouri Task Force 1 is to rescue people. We go look for people, rescue people out of rubble, flooded houses, off of rooftops. Any way we can rescue is our number one priority with the team."
Another member of the team is the bus driver, Stephenno Barnes. He got involved with the Task Force during Hurricane Harvey last year.
"Last year, we got there and set up in this school, and the flood waters were coming in really fast," Barnes said. "We almost didn't make it out. It was a tough night."
Barnes said he's expecting the same type of environment in North Carolina. Last year, he helped the Task Force with rescue operations. He said his experience with the team has inspired him to train to be part of the Task Force by next year.
"They told me I was doing things I didn't have to do and that I was a natural born member," Barnes said. "These disasters are coming off the coast like baseball games now, so after this, there will be another one to go to I'm sure."
Missouri Task Force 1 could be deployed up to 14 days. Blomenkamp said there is a chance 33 more volunteers could be deployed if the hurricane upgrades. As the storm's path becomes more predictable, the Task Force could be moved to areas outside of Raleigh.