Missouri Task Force 1 rescues 384 people in Colorado floods

Wednesday, September 18, 2013 | 6:20 p.m. CDT; updated 9:58 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 18, 2013

COLUMBIA – Missouri Task Force 1 has helped evacuate more than 380 people in Larimer County, Colo. since the group was deployed Sunday to help manage the aftermath of severe flooding.

The 80-person team left Columbia at 3:40 a.m. Sunday with four dogs and more than 100,000 pounds of specialty equipment, according toGale Blomenkamp, the Boone County Fire Protection District battalion chief.

Missouri Task Force 1 and Nevada Task Force 1 are providing search and rescue efforts, assistance with evacuating people in areas cut off from vehicular traffic, humanitarian aid and medical support to the area west of Loveland, Colo.

As of Tuesday evening, the combined forces had rescued 384 people, 77 dogs, 41 cats, 14 chickens, two birds, a turtle, a pot belly pig and a cooler full of fish, according to Blomenkamp.

"It brings the teams great satisfaction when they're able to help bring closure to the people of Colorado," he said. "There's also a sense of accomplishment because their goal is to make someone's day better than yesterday."

Challenges include access to flooded areas, the amount of debris, moving people to safety and getting supplies to stranded families.

"There's limited space for helicopters in any given area, so it takes time to get them out there," Blomenkamp said. "It's a challenge but they are all managing it very well."

The task force was aware of these difficulties coming into the situation and no unexpected challenges have emerged, he said.

"These people that are out here have been to disaster areas all over the country to help," Blomenkamp said. "They take those lessons learned from previous disasters and use them here. They're prepared for anything."

In 2012, the task force was deployed to the Northeast to provide relief efforts after Hurricane Sandy.

In Colorado, the 80-member group has been divided into 1o teams with six people from the Missouri crew, two Larimer County search and rescue workers and one Larimer County sheriff's deputy, Blomenkamp said.

Christman Field in Fort Collins, Colo., where search and Rescue Air Operations for Larimer County is headquartered, serves as a receiving facility for anyone being evacuated by air. As of Wednesday morning, two Missouri Task Force 1 crews have been stationed there.

Federal and state emergency officials said more than 3,000 people have been evacuated by air and ground and calls for emergency rescues have decreased, according to an AP report from early Wednesday morning.

The team typically expects to be deployed in a disaster area for up to 14 days, but so far there has been no talk as to when the task force will come home. Until then, Blomenkamp wanted to let the community in Missouri know "they are doing well. Everybody is safe and spirits are high. They're glad to be here and glad to be working."

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