Four members of the Chapel Hill Fire Department were deployed to Houston to help relief efforts following Hurricane Harvey.
The four are a part of a regional Urban Search and Rescue team made up of members from Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh Fire Departments. In total, 17 personnel were sent to Houston from the task force.
“Our team deployed on Thursday of last week," Deputy Fire Chief Matthew Lawrence said. "We anticipated a nine-day deployment and we’ve heard from them today and they are returning today. We expect them back tomorrow night in anticipation of the potential impact of Hurricane Irma here.”
The team is one of the few tier urban search and rescue teams in the region and was formed in the early 2000s in response to 9/11 and hurricane impacts in North Carolina.
“It allows us the capability and access to resources and trained personnel that we may need,” Lawrence said. “Thank goodness these are the types of events that don’t occur very often, but when they do they take a significant amount of resources, some very specialized training and equipment.”
Lawrence said teams from across the nation have come to Houston’s aid.
“In Houston, our folks have been interacting with search and rescue teams from all over the continental United States,” said Lawrence. “From east to west, north to south.”
Ben Batley is a member of the task force who most recently assisted with recovery efforts after Hurricane Matthew struck the Eastern part of North Carolina.
“We ended up helping a lot of people evacuate their houses,” he said. “Kind of walking them through water and rescuing a lot of pets that got left behind that we would find on decks that were the only thing not flooded. Or helping people get animals from their homes.”
Batley said the damage Houston suffered is on a massive scale, but that doesn’t influence the way the team reacts.
“It’s just kind of something we always of do,” he said. “I don’t think I feel any special way about it, it’s just something that's kind of ingrained into this job and not just the task force. That it’s just what we’re there to do, no matter what the call is.”
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