South Florida first responders to help with hurricane relief

Published: Aug. 29, 2023 at 11:55 PM EDT
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First responders from South Florida have been dispatched in the northern part of the state to help with storm response as Hurricane Idalia hammers Florida’s Big Bend region.

"Right now we're going to Tallahassee to Florida A&M University," Jason Haythorn, a lieutenant with Palm Beach County Fire Rescue, said

Haythron is part of a 12-person group, including seven from PBCFR, set to help students sheltering at FAMU and to assist with the campus and state's emergency operations center.

"When an outside agency requests help, we have support we have the trained personnel to do it, so we're going to get our feet out there immediately," Haythorn said. "Every storm I've been on we just have to plan for the worst and hope for the best."

PBCFR also sent two personnel to help with communication capabilities, providing radio transmission support for incoming first responders.

"Every hurricane or every response we've been through so far, the biggest issue is communications. If you have no way to communicate with anybody, they have no way to get those needed resources where they need to go," Haythorn said.

St. Lucie County Fire Rescue dispatched two paramedics on Monday, Lts. Brian Sexton and Jonathan Fraga.

St. Lucie County Fire Rescue paramedics Brian Sexton and Jonathan Fraga headed north on Monday.
St. Lucie County Fire Rescue paramedics Brian Sexton and Jonathan Fraga headed north on Monday.

"When you think of both candidates, one was a special operations officer and the other one is a SWAT medic so both of those guys are excellent candidates to go over and help," spokesman Brenda Smith said.

"I received a call at 3:45 in the morning that they received a call from the state. So packed up my bags and headed into our administration building and started getting everything ready, Sexton said.

The two join crews from across the state in Orange County along with their rescue vehicle waiting for assignment.

"We're all trained to the same capacity and whether whatever shirt you wear or whatever logo is on your shirt when the time is needed, we all come together and we all come as one," Fraga said. "We're here to perform our job. We don't want to see anyone get hurt, we don't want to see any catastrophe, we don't want to see any devastation but with that possibility looming we're ready to do what we're trained to do."

Once winds reach a certain speed, rescue vehicles are not sent on the road.

"So then you know you have all those calls, and they back up and once the hurricane passes, then in the order of emergency that they came in, then they start to send crews out," Smith said.

She said before crews are dispatched, they need to make sure roadways are safe to drive through and passable, which can impact response time. "They're going to be inundated, the local agencies whether here or up the coast, and having not just us but everybody else here provides a little bit of extra support," Fraga said.

“How long have you guys anticipated being out there for?” WFLX reporter Joel Lopez asked.

"Really we're not given a time frame, we're going to be out here as long as we're asked to be out here for," Sexton said.

Dani Moschella, a spokeswoman with Delray Beach Fire Rescue, said one firefighter has also been sent to help through the state task force out of Miami.

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