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Keyword: pennsylvania task force #1

Seven BCoFD members have deployed to the Gulf Coast to assist with Hurricane Michael recovery operations.

This is the second time in less than a month that BCoFD personnel have been called to assist with hurricane-stricken regions. Several urban search and rescue experts and helicopter rescue specialists were deployed to the Carolinas following Hurricane Florence.

Four members -- operating as part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Pennsylvania Task Force #1, a search and rescue unit -- are en route to Panama City, Florida. They are Fire Lt. Michael Szczesniakowsi, Fire Lt. Brandon Watkins, Fire Apparatus Driver Operator (FADO) Steve Yealdhall and FADO Shawn Drees. All are search and rescue specialists.

Three members have been deployed with the Maryland Disaster Medical Assistance Team (MD1 DMAT) to help provide medical care to hurricane victims. DMAT provides medical care during disasters that overwhelm health care infrastructure.

The BCoFD members deployed with DMAT are Fire Capt. Jack Amrhein, EMS Lt. Rick Blubaugh and EMS Lt. Kevin Palmer.

Five Baltimore County Fire Department members The Maryland Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Teamremain in the Carolinas, assisting with rescue operations related to catastrophic flooding caused by Hurricane Florence.

Pennsylvania Task Force #1

Two of those members -- Fire Lt. Michael Szczesniakowsi and Fire Lt. Brandon Watkins -- are deployed with the Pennsylvania Task Force 1 (PATF-1), a FEMA Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Team based in Philadelphia.  They were activated September 10 and now are working with the National Guard in Dillon, SC, assisting with water rescues and evacuations.

A third member of PATF-1 who deployed last week, Fire Capt. Kelvin Seigle, returned early due to a personal emergency.

Maryland Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team

Three BCoFD personnel who are members of the Maryland Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team (MDHART) were deployed under mutual aid agreements and currently are positioned at a base of operations in Raleigh, NC. (The entire team is pictured above.) Our MDHART members have been engaged in missions all morning.

Fire Lt. David Gouak, EMT/FF Shane Sierakowski and EMT/FF Andrew Hays are specially trained rescue personnel who work with the Maryland Army National Guard and engage in helicopter-based rescue missions under difficult conditions. 

Update, September 11:

Fire Capt. John Amrhein, who has been serving with Maryland 1-Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) in Texas, has been redeployed to Florida to assist victims of Hurricane Irma.

Five Fire Department personnel remain deployed in the South -- Captain Amrhein and four members assigned to FEMA's Pennsylvania Task Force #1, a search and rescue team.

Original release:

Baltimore County Fire personnel continue to play a role in emergency response in Texas and now Florida, where Hurricane Irma -- a massive Category 5 storm -- threatens the entire state.

Three BCoFD members were deployed yesterday to Alabama as part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Pennsylvania Task Force #1 to prepare to respond to rescue and recovery needs associated with Irma.

Fire Lt. David Gouak, Fire Lt. Brandon Watkins and Fire Apparatus Driver Operator Shawn Drees will join Fire Lt. Byron Welker in Alabama. Lieutenant Welker, also a member of the Philadelphia-based Pennsylvania Task Force #1, has been deployed in Texas to assist with the response to Hurricane Harvey. The task force currently is demobilizing operations in that area.

Task Force member Fire Apparatus Driver Operator Steve Yealdhall, who was deployed to Texas, is returning home shortly.

Three BCoFD and one Health and Human Services personnel who have been serving in Texas as part of the Maryland 1-Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) also have been demobilized and are on their way home: Fire Capt. Jack Amrhein, EMS Lt. Kevin Palmer, EMS Lt. Rick Blubaugh and Terry Sapp, Coordinator of Public Health Emergency Preparedness for the Department of Health and Human Services and an EMT.

"These are skilled professionals who have shown tremendous caring and heart. We are proud of them and happy to see them return safely," said County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. "We continue to keep the people of Texas, and now everyone in Irma's path, in our thoughts."

Preparing for Irma

Baltimore County agencies continue to monitor Hurricane Irma's track and prepare accordingly. "We are fortunate to have well-trained personnel and state-of-the-art equipment for our response, should this storm affect us," said Fire Chief Kyrle W. Preis III. "In the meantime, this is the right time for our citizens to take stock of their own emergency kits and other personal preparedness needs."

Revised June 27, 2017