Breaking News
More () »

In aftermath of Ian, Virginia rescuers arrive

The Virginia team may have been the best positioned state task force to help the soonest.

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — State task force teams from around the country are now assembling in Florida under the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency  (FEMA) to assist with the search-and-rescue efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.

Virginia's Task Force 1 may have been positioned in the best spot to help the soonest.

The 45-member team rode out the storm in Miami, and as Ian moved through, they moved in right behind it to help those who needed it most.

In South Florida, beach towns have turned into beachheads of a battle still underway as many on Florida's west coast are still fighting to survive Hurricane Ian.

"Today has been an extremely, extremely busy day for them," said Program Manager Jeff Lewis about his team on the ground Thursday.

Virginia Task Force 1 is a specially trained team from Fairfax County Fire and Rescue combined with medical doctors and K9 handlers from the area. They launched their mission just hours after Ian made landfall right where the storm hit the hardest, near Fort Myers.

"It's complex," Lewis said of the team's work. "It starts off with performing reconnaissance...seeing where the most damage is, and making sure that if there's anyone there that we get them out."

The team is self-contained and can work for a week straight without resupply if it has to - which could be the case in a destruction zone where power and water could be out for days.

Lewis, who also serves as Battalion Chief for Fairfax County, said his main concern during the deployment is remaining safe.

"The team's safety and it is a 24/7 concern," he said. "But I am very confident that our team has the top-level training that they need to mitigate any kind of hazard that they encounter."

The exact length of their deployment is still uncertain but is expected to last at least a week. It's possible they could finish searching one part of Florida and FEMA could redeploy them to another area.

RELATED: Ian becomes a hurricane again as it approaches Charleston, South Carolina

RELATED: 'Like being in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico': Hurricane Ian flattens Florida barrier islands

WUSA9 is now on Roku and Amazon Fire TVs. Download the apps today for live newscasts and video on demand.

Download the WUSA9 app to get breaking news, weather and important stories at your fingertips.

Sign up for the Get Up DC newsletter: Your forecast. Your commute. Your news.
Sign up for the Capitol Breach email newsletter, delivering the latest breaking news and a roundup of the investigation into the Capitol Riots on January 6, 2021.

Before You Leave, Check This Out