CHANTILLY, Va. - Fairfax County's Urban Search and Rescue Team has returned home to Virginia after they traveled to Houston to help with the rescue and relief efforts during Harvey.
Fourteen members of Virginia Task Force 1 were deployed last week to help support the Federal Emergency Management Agency with rescue operations and the evacuation of residents in Texas affected by the devastating floods. The team is made up of members from the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department.
Officials said the team made at least 10 rescues and evacuations and worked with local emergency workers and the Cajun Navy. Virginia Task Force 1 also helped reunite people with their stranded animals along with getting people valuables and medications they were separated from by the floodwaters.
Virginia Task Force 1 was demobilized on Monday and arrived back home Tuesday evening to family, friends and fellow co-workers.
"I have never seen that amount of water in a residential neighborhood," Capt. Reggie Wadley. "We train on Great Falls or rapids, but to see that type of water in a neighborhood and those levels was impressive and it was an experience."
"We pulled four people out of some townhomes in an area that was up to about the front door, so I would say 8 to 10 feet, and it was really sad," said Lt. Daniel Gajewski. "You could tell they are very devastated, lost all of their belongings, and just getting them into the boat and just seeing how ecstatic and happy they were to have somebody there to pick them up and help them out made a world of difference to them."
Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Chief Richard Bowers said they have another team ready if needed to help with any efforts for Hurricane Irma, which reached Category 5 strength on Tuesday.
"Very proud of them," said Chief Bowers. "Certainly the training, the assets and the equipment that has been invested is incredible, and when they are dispatched out, I have full confidence of their skill and expertise because they have a lot of experience. In a lot of disasters, they can handle any emergency, and they did so in this case and will do so in the next deployment."