Bay Area first responders join recovery effort after Michael

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Bay Area fire and rescue crews are on their way up to the Panhandle Wednesday night to help in the wake of Hurricane Michael. 

Crews from Tampa Fire Rescue, St. Petersburg Fire Rescue, and Hillsborough County Fire Rescue teamed up with supplies and equipment to go to the worst hit areas. 

More than 70 first responders made the four-hour drive up to St. Marks River area and Apalachicola. They traveled with food, K-9 units and generators, hauling equipment including a medical truck, boats and search trucks to help look for people and rescue them. 

“There really is no way to prepare, just training. I’ve been on previous deployments and stuff, and I’ve gone through some hurricanes in the past. We just take it as it comes,” said Capt. Andy Capeletti of Hillsborough County Fire and Rescue.

The first responders on the team are all well trained for what they are walking into since they’ve all responded to more than one storm. They shared what they will face once they start working.  

“That’s going to be our biggest challenge getting to those areas where there’s a lot of flooding, a lot of water has come inland. If we can’t get to those areas with our water boats then we’re going to go to our next phase which is our helicopter,” said Battalion Chief Ronnie Johnson of Hillsborough County Fire Rescue. 

Johnson said Hurricane Michael making landfall as a Category 4 storm changes how they approach their response. They know storm surge and flooding will be a big problem, so they have more swift water rescue members. 

The crews will be up there anywhere from a week to two weeks. They said it’s heartbreaking to see the devastation, but they have to stay focused on rescue efforts.