Fifty-eight Jacksonville firefighters headed to Florida’s Panhandle Tuesday to help communities impacted when Hurricane Michael comes ashore.
Our Florida Times-Union news partner reports while first-responders headed to the expected center of the disaster, a wave of North Florida communities closed schools and took steps to prepare for lesser storm impacts that could include flooding in parts of Jacksonville and significant winds over much of the region.
State officials asked Monday for an urban search and rescue team and followed up with a second request for four rescue units and a bus equipped for mass-casualty incidents, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said over Twitter.
A 47-person search and rescue team headed to Pensacola after being seen off by the mayor.
An ambulance strike team – the four rescue units – headed to Gulf County, along with the mass-casualty bus and an incident commander to coordinate them. Two people from St. Johns County’s fire department were also sent to join larger response teams, said St. Johns Deputy Chief Jeremy Robshaw.
The ambulance team and bus planned to evacuate patients at a Port St. Joe nursing home and drive them to Ocala, then head to Tallahassee to help answer 911 calls for service, said J.W. Blanton, assistant chief of the fire department’s rescue division.
Finding crews for the job was easy, said Blanton, who commands the group and started phoning firefighters Monday night, looking for volunteers.
“They all said yes. I didn’t have one turn-down,” Blanton said as crews finished outfitting spare units for the trip. “We all got into this work because we want to make a difference in people’s lives. This was an extreme example.”