PA Task Force 1 back in Philadelphia after assisting hurricane victims

More than half of the federal urban search and rescue team are Philadelphia firefighters.

John McDevitt
October 19, 2018 - 6:02 pm
PA Task Force 1 is back in Philadelphia today

John McDevitt | KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Members of a federal urban search and rescue team returned to Philadelphia on Friday after being deployed to Florida to help residents affected by Hurricane Michael.

More than half of the 80 members of PA Task Force 1 are Philadelphia firefighters, including Lt. Ken Pagurek, who is also a task force leader.

He says his team covered 1,500 square miles in the Florida Panhandle in four days. 

"We searched and triaged roughly 9,000 structures. We rescued, I think, four people. And we had about just over 12,000 contacts. A contact could be, we came upon a house where there were abandoned animals, we meet somebody that doesn't need to be rescued and they are sheltering in place, maybe we give them a little food and water that we have on hand," he said. 

Peter Crespo, another task force member and a captain in the Philadelphia Fire Department, says there were many challenges the group encountered.   

"There wasn't a lot of access to the different buildings and areas that we had to search. We had cell phone service issues and map issues. So we just had to get creative and bounce between the different formats and platforms, but the damage we encountered, it was extensive," he said.

PA Task Force 1 is one of 28 federal urban search and rescue teams overseen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.