Missouri Task Force 1 deploys swift water rescue team to St. Louis

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COLUMBIA - The Boone County Fire Protection District dispatched 22 Task Force 1 members to St. Louis Wednesday morning.

Gale Blomenkamp, assistant chief for the Boone County Fire Protection District, said the 22 members deployed are part of the swift water rescue component of the task force. 10 members are on standby.

He said the force is ready to rescue people from flooded or swift waters, evacuate dangerous areas, or notify people of places to avoid. 

“It’s whatever the local need is,” Blomenkamp said. “They can assign our people in mission that fits within the realm of what we do.”

Blomenkamp said the conditions cold be dangerous depending on their assignment.

“Anytime we are working in an environment that’s rapidly changing can potentially be dangerous,” Blomenkamp said. 

The crew took four flat bottom boats and two zodiac boats. They also brought rope, water rescue and support equipment and communication personnel, according to Blomenkamp.

Blomenkamp said the task force’s anticipated deployment is 72 hours, but it could be longer. He said 72 hours is typical for state deployment missions.

Task Force 1 is all volunteer work, so everyone on the force is helping others at no cost, according to Blomenkamp.

There are 28 urban search and rescue task forces under the administration of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Task Force 1 is sponsored by the Boone County Fire Protection District and is the only urban search and rescue task force in Missouri.

Task Force 1 has 210 members that come from all over the state and specialize in various disciplines.

Oftentimes, the fire district dispatches Task Force 1 on local missions and state deployments are a rare occasion, according to Blomenkamp. He said the crew’s last state deployment was for the tornadoes in Joplin in 2011.