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National Urban Search & Rescue team assesses the damage in Phoenix

Utah Task Force 1 is in Phoenix today to help with search and rescue efforts after the Almeda Fire.

Posted: Sep 17, 2020 9:57 PM
Updated: Sep 18, 2020 2:48 PM

PHOENIX, Ore. -- Utah Task Force 1 has been operating in Phoenix to help with search and rescue efforts after the Almeda Fire. It is one of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) 28 National Urban Search and Rescue teams.

The task force arrived on Sunday, September 13 and is stationed at Blue Herring Park. This park is still a level three evacuation area. 

The Task Force Leader Wade Russell said they have been on foot going through any and all burned areas.

"The plan for today is- we are just finishing up some structural assessments here in the fire area," Russell said. "We are also doing what we call primary searches where we just comb the area and helping out local resources and make sure everything is good to start letting people go back in."

Russell said they carry an array of equipment to help in situations like these. 

"We have all kinds of tools. We can breach and break concrete. We have breaching and breaking tools like chainsaws, listening devices and cameras we can see into buildings with. So what we're utilizing for this, this is a wide area search operation so realistically this is just eyes and ears and a bunch of our personnel on foot."

Russel said the team does what they call a grid search. They grid the area then begin making their way through it.

Today 80 personnel from Utah were in Phoenix to help with the search efforts. Search and rescue volunteers from the Jackson County Sheriff's Office were also there to help. Russell said these volunteers help boost the number of people and they are able to get through the area faster.

Utah Task Force said they have not found any human remains during the searches.

"It looks like the evacuation efforts were extremely successful," Russell said. "We are doing a lot of structural assessments for Jackson County."

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