MARYLAND HEIGHTS, MO (KPLR) - Maryland Heights Fire Protection District Assistant Chief Steve Rinehart was back at his fire station on Schuetz Road Tuesday. He returned to Missouri Monday after a 10-day deployment with Missouri Task Force 1. Rinehart served as a rescue team manager for water rescue operations following flooding left behind from Hurricane Matthew. The team used 6 boats to make rescues in North Carolina.
“We put 2 rescuers and an operator in each boat, and they went out and basically handled house by house type contacts,” said Rinehart.
In some cases, people are leery of leaving their homes because they own pets. Rinehart said that’s one of the lessons FEMA has learned over time. He said FEMA now includes veterinarians during certain rescues, making the choice to leave home a little easier for some people.
Missouri Task Force 1 is one of 28 urban search and rescue teams in the United States. Rinehart said the deployments help prepared first responders for emergencies in their own communities.
He pointed to a recent rescue by an urban search and rescue team in Ladue. The team was made up of members from different area fire departments, but Rinehart said they knew exactly what to do as a team.
He said he is already thinking about lessons learned from his most recent deployment, and trying to find ways to apply them to his work with the Maryland Heights Fire Department. He said each deployment brings about new lessons.
The deployments can also come with short notice. He said members come prepared to be self-sustained for several days. Sleeping conditions during this most recent deployment varied.
“We spent a few nights in a small airport terminal which was very nice,” said Rinehart. “We spent some nights out on a parking lot underneath the stars in sleeping bags which is not quite so nice.”
Rinehart said he was happy to be back home pointing out there was no running water in the places where they were working.
“When you get home, the bed, the hot shower is a good thing,” said Rinehart. “It’s nice to get home.”
For more photos of the Hurricane Matthew rescue operations by Missouri Task Force 1.