Boone County team saves hundreds in Louisiana

Wednesday, August 31, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:58 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 11, 2008

As of Tuesday evening, the 38-member Boone County-based Missouri Task Force I saved 332 people in New Orleans as part of its hurricane-relief actions.

“Our men are engaged in reconnaissance and search-and-rescue operations,” said Chief Steve Paulsell of the Boone County Fire Protection District. The fire district serves as the headquarters and sponsoring agency to the task force.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency activated the task force early Saturday, before the worst of Hurricane Katrina had hit. Paulsell said, at 2:30 p.m. that day, a 34-man “light task force” left Boone County. After waiting in Shreveport, La., the force was ordered to Baton Rouge. Four additional people were dispatched Monday night with additional equipment.

Around dusk on Monday, FEMA ordered task-force members into New Orleans, Paulsell said.

“As they came in on I-10, people were waving from flooded houses,” he said. “There are a lot of people down there who need help.”

The Boone County rescuers were based at a Sam’s Club near the New Orleans airport. They are working with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and sheriff’s deputies.

“Our agreement with the federal government calls for a maximum 10-day deployment,” Paulsell said. “After 10 days, rescue personnel are physically and mentally exhausted.”

Paulsell said the task force has 210 trained rescuers and can easily send replacements.

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