Local first responders help with hurricane recovery

Firefighters and emergency services workers from Manatee County gather in Marianna, Fla. - WMFR | Submitted

BRADENTON – Manatee County first responders don’t only answer the call of duty locally, they also answer when other people need their help, including those affected by Hurricane Michael in the Florida Panhandle.

West Manatee Fire Rescue Chief Tom Sousa said that when the call came in for assistance in the aftermath of the Category 4 storm, five strike teams of firefighters and emergency medical service workers from region six, stretching from Manatee to Collier County, assembled including 25 fire engines with around 100 firefighters and five ambulance teams with 25 ambulances and about 50 medical personnel.

Sousa said the region’s six strike teams assembled first in Tallahassee before traveling to Marianna, Fla., where they helped to clear debris, treat injuries using the WMFR advanced life support engine, distribute supplies and run emergency calls with local first responders.

He said the team, including firefighters from WMFR, Longboat Key, Cedar Hammock, Southern Manatee, the City of Bradenton, East Manatee and North River fire districts, was redeployed Oct. 15 to Port St. Joe and Port St. Joe Beach to provide hurricane recovery assistance.

WMFR Battalion Chief Ben Rigney served as the leader for an engine strike team of five engines and around 30 personnel. The City of Bradenton Urban Search and Rescue team also responded, sending six personnel to the region along with Manatee County EMS workers.

Sousa said the teams were expected to return home after nearly two weeks in the region early this week.