Orlando-area firefighters rescue survivors after Hurricane Michael

Volunteers working 20-hour days to provide aid

By Nathaniel Rivas - Digital Intern, Nadeen Yanes - Reporter

PORT ST. JOE, Fla. - A search and rescue task force from Central Florida has rescued nearly 30 people in Gulf County during rescue missions following Hurricane Michael. 

Nearly 40 firefighters from seven different agencies arrived in Port St. Joe shortly after Hurricane Michael passed. They make up Central Florida's Urban Search and Rescue Team Task Force 4. 

Robbie Fickett, a rescue team manager, said the team is checking every structure, vehicle and camper to find people in need.

"We're calling out, and we are looking for live people that need help," Fickett said. 

The volunteers work 20-hour days to bring aid to and rescue those trapped by the storm. The team is self-sustained with filtered water and showers in their camp at a hospital in Port St. Joe. 

First responders use chainsaws to cut through roofs on the ground and other debris, and the crew uses cameras to make sure no one is trapped inside. Workers mark the checked houses with orange spray paint. 

"The three, four, five days we've been here, we've come across multiple rescues, we transported and airlifted multiple," Fickett said. 

Joan Buckner, a survivor of Hurricane Michael, tearfully hugged the rescue team and said it means everything to have their help. With shredded houses, Buckner doesn't know how her community will recover. 

"It's bad," Buckner said through tears. "It's really bad." 

Fickett said it is tough on the team to be away from their families for days on end. But the team has been ready to serve and help others. 

"We look forward to helping people," Fickett said. "We spent years of training, and when they call and ask for us, we're ready and coming."

Chief Brian Carroll of Osceola County Fire Rescue said the team is doing well. 

"Everything is going well out here, the people are coming around and the power is getting turned back on," Carroll said. 

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