VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Starting days in advance with a deployment out of Virginia Beach with bags packed and trucks loaded, Virginia Task Force 2 (VATF-2) crews made it to south Florida by Sunday evening.
Since then, the team has been training and preparing for the moment Hurricane Ian made landfall on Wednesday.
"There were some pretty intense thunderstorms last night in the south Florida area," said Brian Sullivan, Virginia Beach Fire Battalion Chief and Task Force Leader. "We're standing by, doing what we can to keep our people sharp and ready to go."
As flooding consumes parts of Fort Myers and high winds pick up on the coast, Sullivan said they have not yet received a call for a rescue effort as of Wednesday evening.
However, he added his team is packed and ready to go the second the phone rings for help.
"We're making sure that all of our equipment is ready to go. We're doing final checks on that, making sure our batteries are charged and our electronic devices and our vehicles are fueled up and ready to go," said Sullivan. "All of our gear is packed and ready to go as soon as we get a mission, so we can depart the area and do what we can."
Sullivan said it's a challenging environment to navigate, especially when residents don't follow evacuation orders. However, he said an experienced team is ready to respond with various specialties on the team, such as K-9 search and rescue handlers, two K9 search dogs, as well as a physician and an engineer.
"We're kind of waiting on the state incident management team, where they identify the needs area and we can be in any part of the state based on impacts of the storm," Sullivan explained. "We're just ready to go waiting for any mission we get assigned."
According to Sullivan, crews typically stay on location for two to three weeks, but it's unclear as of Wednesday how long they will have to stay in Florida.