Fairfax firefighters head to Virgin Islands in Irma’s wake

VATF1 member heads to USVI

VATF 1 member gets ready to head to the US Virgin Islands. FCFR photo.

The U.S. Virgin Islands, devastated by Hurricane Irma, is the destination for Fairfax County’s Virginia Task Force 1.

The 80 firefighters are specialists in urban search and rescue and water rescue. They, and several search dogs, are heading their from a staging area at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia.

Last week 14 members of that group spent several days in Kingwood, Texas, Northeast of Houston, rescuing victims of Hurricane Harvey. This is the first time that this search and rescue team has had a less than 24-hour turnaround to assist with back-to-back historic storms.

Fairfax County’s 210-member VA-TF1 team consists of firefighters, paramedics, search and rescue specialists, structural engineers, physicians, hazardous materials specialists, planning and logistical staff, and canines and handlers. In addition to its regular complement of equipment, the team will also deploy with two inflatable boats and water rescue specialists.

In a recent newsletter, Fairfax County Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova noted that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) pays for all costs and expenses incurred by VA-TF1 when members are activated. All training, equipment and personnel costs of VA-TF1 are also paid for by the federal government on a regular basis, including its training facility in Lorton.

Additionally, said Bulova, when firefighters and members are deployed, there is no loss in emergency response or service to Fairfax County residents, as minimum staffing for all apparatus is continuous for all fire and rescue stations. She said the county maintains adequate search and rescue resources to assist here if Irma’s impact to the region requires it.

“I am incredibly proud of our firefighters and am grateful that we have the ability to send skilled personnel and critical resources to assist those in need throughout our country and around the globe when disaster strikes,” Bulova said.


About the Author

Ed Tobias
Ed Tobias brings more than four decades of reporting and news management experience to his work at FairfaxNews. Tobias managed news coverage for Associated Press Radio for over twenty years.  This included coverage of the 9/11 attacks, the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, the death of Princess Diana, the Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters and national election primaries, conventions and campaigns.  He was part of the team that built AP’s on-line video operation. Prior to joining AP, Tobias was News Director at all-news WTOP in Washington, D.C. He has won two Ohio State Awards for his reporting and producing and he led coverage that won an Edward R. Murrow Award.