Utah firefighters train for search and rescue missions

Posted at 8:28 PM, Sep 16, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-16 23:55:31-04

SANDY -- Seven deaths have been confirmed after massive flooding in Colorado. The weather improved Monday, but there were still hundreds missing and thousands waiting to be evacuated.

More than 16 inches of rain have left more than 1,500 homes destroyed in the 17 counties that have been affected. State officials said 150 miles of roadway have been damaged, as well as up to 30 bridges.

Utah's Task Force 1 arrived in Boulder, Colo. on Friday night to help. The 80-member team has been assisting with rescues and evacuations; a scenario a team in Sandy trained for on Monday.

“We’re breaching walls. We’re cutting doors. We’re drilling through four inches of concrete,” said Capt. Brian Allred of the South Jordan Fire Department.

Inside the abandoned Mt. Jordan Middle School in Sandy, a 45-person rescue team combed the hallways, searching for two victims. They checked every room on every floor until they found a sign of life, caught under fallen rubble and trapped below them. It’s the kind of rescue operation the Utah Search and Rescue Task Force 5 spends hours preparing for, in the event it actually occurs.

“We’re going to have a major catastrophe in Utah. It’s just a matter of when and being prepared for that,” Allred said. “Is it going to be in the Wasatch Valley? Is it going to be in Price? Is it going to be in Box Elder? Is it going to be in Tooele? We don`t know.”

The crew training was about half of the state’s task force, created to respond to emergencies in state, similar to the one Utah’s Federal Emergency Management Agency crew is wading through in Colorado.

“Our basic goal here is to check in with these residents, make sure that the house is empty and these residents are evacuated. And if there are residents here, we advise them of the evacuation process,” said Keith Bevan, the task force commander in Colorado.

The group received word Sunday morning they would be deployed to flood ravaged neighborhoods to help with evacuations. According to Allred, the response is no different than what the crews are preparing for in Utah.

“They’re doing essentially the same thing. They’re given an area where they have to go house to house and rescue people, get them out of those dangerous situations,” said Allred.

Task Force 5 is comprised of about 80 members from five different fire agencies, including West Valley, West Jordan, Murray, South Jordan, Bluffdale, South Salt Lake and Sandy.