Rescue teams from across region deploy for Dorian

Published: Sep. 5, 2019 at 10:44 PM EDT
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As lists were double checked and gear locked away, Franklin County Fire Chief Pat Meeks gave his equipment one more look-over.

"These have down sonar on them," said Meeks, pointing at an inflatable boat. "We can get over deeper holes to look for people that's underwater and stuff like that."

Meeks was speaking from the parking lot of the Roanoke Valley Regional Fire Training Center. Around him were a half dozen trucks and trailers, all stuffed full of firefighting gear and loaded down with boats, including Meeks's.

The gear was there for a joint team of first responders being deployed to the Virginia Coast. The team includes Roanoke City, Salem, and Franklin County firefighters.

The deployment is part of a state-wide mobilization of fire and rescue personnel ahead of Hurricane Dorian. Lynchburg, Bedford, and many other departments also sent teams of their own this week.

Among the 23 firefighters that make up the Roanoke group are swift water rescue teams, hazardous materials specialists and others, all prepared for the worst.

"Obviously training is the key to the whole situation," said Meeks.

And train they have. The teams bring experience from simulations and the real world, last deploying to Texas in 2017 for Hurricane Harvey.

Now, they're ready for whatever damage Dorian might bring.

"This one, we're going to be on the front line of it," said Meeks.

But as with any hurricane, there's only so much planning they can do.

"We don't know for sure what we're getting into," said Roanoke City Battalion Chief Trevor Shannon. Shannon says the teams will stage in Richmond Thursday night, joining up with another crew from Bristol.

After that, it's into the unknown.

Before heading out Thursday, the teams were given their assigned roles and one last pep talk. Then, it was time to load gear, fire up the engines, and head out, ready to lend a hand, or save a life.

"They need to know that we're coming and we're going to be there to help them," said Shannon.

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