Missouri Task Force 1 Helps Tackle Colorado Flood Devastation

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LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. - Eighty members of Missouri Task Force 1 (TF1) continue search and rescue efforts in the areas suffering from massive flooding in Colorado.  Eight crews worked in the field Tuesday to help local personnel rescue stranded residents.

Task force leader Doug Westhoff said TF1 arrived in the north Denver area Sunday night, slept for five hours and woke up early Monday morning to start helping in any way possible.  Teams are traveling to several different areas isolated by the flood waters.  Five teams have flown out of Christman Field Helibase in Fort Collins by helicopter to access areas that are inaccessible by roads.  Two teams are still stationed at the base to help evacuees.

"We go into the identified mission areas, working with multi jurisdictional teams to assess these communities, sub-divisions, gatherings of people," Westhoff said, "first to insure that they have no medical compromise and nobody has any emergency situations and then offering humanitarian support including food, water and evacuation opportunities."

Westhoff said crew members can see the damage clearly from the helicopter.

"It was pretty obvious that some of the infrastructure is going to take a long time to get repaired and some of these areas may be isolated for months, so communication is important in those areas to let folks know that we'll offer evacuation if that's required."

Three crews worked around the clock and stayed on the mountain to help Monday night, one in the Estes Park area and two in a large subdivision area referred to as "The Retreat."

"This is a heart wrenching experience," Westhoff said. "Many of these folks have lost everything they have in this world and are lucky to escape with their lives or their pets or whatever they could carry with them. One person described that she climbed out the window of her house as her house was sliding down the hill. So she doesn't have a house anymore."

TF1 will stay in Colorado until local government officials decide that they're comfortable with the situation and they can handle it without any extra assistance.

"A day, two, three, four days; we really don't know going into these events. It really depends on what they find and what kind of need they identify and how we can help them with those. So if there's anything we can do to help out these folks out we'll stay in here and take care of business with them," Westhoff said.