Missouri Task Force returns from deployments in Maui, Florida

Published: Sep. 7, 2023 at 12:12 PM CDT
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BRANSON, Mo. (KY3) - Missouri Task Force One members returned to the Ozarks after responding to the wildfire in Maui and Hurricane Idalia in Florida.

The group has assisted with disasters for 20 years now. Its first deployment happened at the World Trade Center and Ground Zero after the terrorist attacks in 2001. It is one of 28 FEAM Urban Search and Rescue forces in the country. It features 210 members across the state.

But leaving home at a moment’s notice means phone calls instead of hugs.

“I called my wife and tell her I’m leaving. The kids called me when they got out of school because I didn’t have time to go say bye to them and then you don’t waste any time and get straight to Columbia.” said Josh Boehm.

They left Columbia on the 28th of August making their way to Panama City, Florida.

Hurricane Idalia struck the Big Bend area of Florida as a Category 3 storm.

The team made up of 35 first responders and 10 support crew made its way to Mayo, Florida.

“There was still significant damage. One thing I did notice was a lot of the Floridians were pretty prepared for that. A lot of them were pretty self-reliant, and lot of them had generators for the most part that I seen. They were kind of prepared, they knew what was coming their way.” said Billy Kepford, Branson Firefighter.

Josh Boehm is a Battalion Chief with the Branson Fire Department. Hurricane Idalia was his sixth deployment with Missouri Tast for one. The week-long deployment was short notice not only for him but also for his family. Boehm said the primary function was the search and recovery area in a rural part of Florida and to provide information on who needed help.

“We used technology, it’s satellite and cell phones basically, and we are able to go in and put a pin on each structure,” said Boehm. “Take pictures of it, label the damage, road blockages, and any needs that are for the community there. That goes live back to not only our command post but anybody else who is in that system.”

Members of Missouri Task Force One designed the GPS technology. It replaces the spray paint method we usually see in video after a significant natural disaster. For Boehm, he says his bags are packed, and he is ready to go again when needed.

“We enjoy what we do, we like to get out there and help others, if they called me today, I would go again.” said Kepford.

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