Bay Area firefighters return after Harvey rescues

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When Harvey was battering the southeastern part of Texas, a team of local first responders geared up and headed there to help. After 9 exhausting days, they're finally back home.

Emma Quinette may be young but she knows her dad, Jason, a St. Pete firefighter, is a hero... to a lot of people.

"We made this sign this morning," said her mother Amy Quinette holding up their poster board. "She put her hands on it and and she decorated it with stickers for who? For daddy."

Amy and other families of 25 local firefighters with the Florida Task Force Three waited patiently Tuesday afternoon outside the Hillsborough County Public Safety Operations Center.

"It's been... a little rough just not knowing, not having them there," Quinette said. "But, knowing that they're coming home makes me really happy."

The families stood by East Columbus Drive listening for the faint sirens in the distance, sound that was followed by the sight of a caravan of fire trucks.

After a grueling 9-day mission, these firefighters from St. Pete, Tampa, and Hillsborough County Fire Rescues are home.

"It's awesome... it's awesome," said firefighter Aaron Bruckler, holding back tears as he held his son.

The team worked nonstop in Texas, rescuing victims trapped in their homes by floodwater, evacuating a nursing home, all on just 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night.

"Nine days, nine days being gone," said firefighter Jon Blinkey. "It's tough, especially, when you're seeing what we saw over there. I can tell you, it makes you prepare for here for the storm that is coming. I saw a lot of people that just didn't want to do anything. They stayed there and when the water is up to the roof and when you're putting boats on top of roofs to get people out, it's definitely an experience."

While relief was in the air, the first responders all know that with Hurricane Irma on the way, their time of rest will likely be cut short.

"Unfortunately, you come home to pack up again probably," Bruckler said.

All of the firefighters shared the same message: don't take this next hurricane lightly.

"Just get prepared, have a plan, make sure you get the supplies you need," said firefighter Aaron Gross. "Don't ignore it because what we just witnessed is some people weren't prepared and they are waiting 'til the last minute. Luckily, we were able to help them but if we are overwhelmed, we might not be able to get to you right away."