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City firefighters part of team ready to serve along east coast if needed

By Staff | Sep 3, 2019

Members of the Cape Coral Fire Department and other Lee County emergency agencies packed up their vehicles and headed to Miami Monday morning to provide relief for communities on the Treasure Coast who may be facing tropical storm force winds as Hurricane Dorian churns up the east coast of Florida slowly but surely.

“(CCFD) sent an engine with a lieutenant, an engineer and two firefighters as part of the strike team of other Southwest Florida agencies to the east coast this weekend,” Andrea Schuch, CCFD spokesperson, said. “From there they will be able to respond to areas impacted by the storm.”

Other agencies included the South Trail Fire Department, Lehigh Acres Fire Department, Estero Fire Department, Charlotte County and City of Fort Myers Fire Department.

Mathew Marshall, battalion chief with CCFD, is also at the State Emergency Operations Center in Miami assisting officials.

This call to action is part of response framework set by the state to allow resources to be allocated when and where needed in emergency situations.

Regions are tapped to provide services by the state to provide relief, but only if that region is able to do so while keeping their area safe.

“We respond based on our needs while still protecting the city,” Michael Russell, division chief of operations for Cape Coral, said. “We have to see what we have available. We need the city taken care of first.”

As Southwest Florida has been outside the “cone of uncertainty” in forecasts the last few days, CCFD and other county agencies found it appropriate to provide their services in areas where resources may become depleted in a hurry.

Tasks and duties will be ironed out in Miami, where a task force leader will be assigned.

Russell said those deployed in special circumstances like this are essentially working for the state and they will be utilized based on their skill sets and specialties.

“There’s a wide variety of duties including running 9-1-1 calls, working at a shelter passing out water, doing urban search and rescue missions, loading helicopters and more,” said Russell. “There’s usually no shortage of work to be done.”

CCFD and emergency services throughout the county have provided relief in the past, most recently last year with Hurricane Michael.

Russell said there’s a sense of pride helping out their fellow comrades, as well as an area in need.

“To help people in need is the basis of what we do,” said Russell. “If we can help, we’re glad to. Helping communities and overwhelmed departments in a state of emergency is prideful. We know they’d be there to help us if needed.”

Though deploying these resources may be costly, the department will get fully refunded for their time and efforts through the state and FEMA.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj