Tennessee Task Force One heading to Florida ahead of Hurricane Dorian

Updated: Aug. 30, 2019 at 9:41 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Dozens of Mid-South heroes are headed toward Hurricane Dorian right now. Tennessee Task Force One got the call from FEMA Friday afternoon.

The task force is made up of local first responders from Memphis and the surrounding suburbs. They’re firefighters and rescue personnel who put their lives on the line every day to protect us. And now they’re going to help the people of Florida.

"We're going to do this thing just like we did last time and make a difference. Safety, safety, safety is the word of the day," said Memphis Fire Department Division Chief Colin Burress.

He's a veteran of the task force and its leader. Friday evening he stood before the 80 men and women who make up Tennessee Task Force One and gave them their marching orders.

"FEMA wants us to deploy to the Miami area," he told WMC Action News 5. "We're headed out in about 30 minutes."

The team had just six hours from the time FEMA activated them to load up and go. They packed their go-bags and the big rigs: three semi tractor trailers, multiple moving trucks, a flatbed loaded with equipment like forklifts and four-wheelers, half a dozen rescue boats, fuel, medical supplies and food.

"We're basically a traveling city within ourselves," said Burress. "We're self sufficient."

Sometimes the task force stays in a hotel when on assignment, but more often they stay in a parking lot, setting up tents and cots as their sleeping quarters.

They are firefighters, doctors, engineers, police officers and canine handlers who represent agencies from Memphis, Shelby County, Germantown, Collierville, Arlington and Bartlett.

The convoy pulled out of town around 7:30 Friday night, just as the National Hurricane Center upgraded Dorian to a Category 4 storm packing 130 mile per hour winds.

"We're expecting those areas to get inundated with a lot of water," said Burress, "so I'm sure we'll have a lot of areas to search. Whatever they give us, we'll do our best at it."

Of the 28 urban search and rescue teams in the United States, Tennessee Task Force One gets deployed the most. Heroes always heading into harm's way, always ready to save lives.

"You never know where you'll be able to make a difference," said Burress, "but whatever happens, we're ready and willing to do it."

Tennessee Task Force One has even saved lives on the road. While struck in traffic during their last deployment, doctors saved a woman who was having an allergic reaction to an insect bite.

Their trip to Miami is expected to take 15 to 17 hours.

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