Renton firefighters respond to fire disaster in Maui

The firefighters are part of a federal task force known as Washington Task Force 1.

Renton Regional Fire Authority firefighters deployed out of Boeing Field in Seattle on Aug. 11 to help execute search and rescue operations on the Hawaiian island of Maui following the devastating wildfires that swept the island.

The responding firefighters are part of a federal task force designed to aid during a disaster, known as Washington Task Force 1 (WA-TF1). The task force, established in 1991, is composed of 210 members of 25 local agencies from Pierce County, King County and the City of Seattle.

According to the Pierce County government website, there are 28 such task forces in the United States, each sponsored by a local agency. In the event of a disaster in the United States, the nearest three task forces will be activated and sent to the site of the disaster. If the situation is large enough, additional teams will be activated.

Each task force member is reportedly a specialist in one of five areas:

• Search: Locating victims of a disaster.

• Rescue: Extricating a victim from the location where they are trapped, usually involving removing debris from around the victim.

• Technical: Structural specialists who provide engineering support for the rescuers, plans and tech info specialists who provide command, control and computer support.

• Medical: Providing medical treatment for the team, canines and victims before, during and after rescue.

• Logistics: Providing supply and essential items as well as communications and mobility.

Renton RFA Battalion Chief Jim Ochs, Battalion Chief Ryan Simmonds, and Engineer Jeremy Tucker are part of the Washington Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue Team.

The search and rescue team will provide additional mutual aid resources to the people of Maui, working in alternating 12-hour shifts. Renton Regional Fire Authority will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as they become available.

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