40+ first responders search for survivors in Keys

BIG PINE KEY, Fla. (WSVN) — A special group of first responders made its way to the Keys in order to search for survivors after the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma.

Firefighters and EMTs from 27 agencies got together to form a special task force to save any lives that need saving.

“We’re going to conduct a search in the hardest hit area,” said Miami Fire Chief Joe Zahralban.

Zahralban’s group of over 40 first responders were among the first urban search and rescue teams to enter the Keys since Irma tore through the region.

The group will use old-fashioned door-to-door searches. However, other resources such as dogs, drones, trucks that can drive through high water and special boats will be used to help boost search efforts.

Debris-covered roads and downed powerlines created a hazardous environment for the first responders, especially in the middle of the night.

Many searches did not yield results. However, some residents were found amongst the devastation.

“We did leave during the actual storm. We went to one of the shelters. They called them shelters of last resort,” said one man.

Another survivor, Tim Marquis, made use of a satellite phone to let his loved ones know he is OK. Marquis rode out the storm in a Bed and Breakfast in Big Pine Key.

“It was a pretty high storm. Lots of water and lots of wind, but the building survived,” marquis said.

Big Pine Key is known for its population of Key deer. However, the deer seemed to to be easier to find than people.

By morning, many more survivors came forward and wanted to let their loved ones know that they are alive and OK.

“We’re safe. We’re good,” said Jessica Bogle who has family in New Hampshire.

“We’re OK, and we hope that you guys are OK up there too,” said Mary Joe Trible, whose mother is in Miami.

“It’s just overwhelming. I’ve been through ’em. The hurricane part doesn’t bother me, it’s the aftermath,” said Tim Beasley who stayed through the storm. “Hey, all our eggs are in one basket down here.”

The group of first responders left Monday and said they have no immediate plans of returning. They plan to stay until their job is done.

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