They leave everything behind in a moment’s notice and go as fast as they can – anywhere in the country – to help people in need.
They are members of Washington Task Force One, the only FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Team in the state, and they helped respond to Hurricane Harvey in Houston.
A portion of the team returned from Houston Friday afternoon. Other members of the group turned around and started driving to Florida to help respond to Irma.
“We call it the drug in the arm,” said Fran Sharp, a member of Task Force One. “There is absolutely no better feeling in the world than saving a life. Most times you don’t get that direct save to somebody; you’re just a part of a big picture.”
Seventeen people were part of that picture in Houston, including Sharp who is one of the only civilians on the team.
“Two slots on the team were given to Tacoma Mountain Rescue, and I volunteer with Tacoma Mountain Rescue, and I took one of those slots,” she said.
Sharp is also the only woman on this team that came to Texas.
“It’s good and it’s bad,” she said. “I tend to work harder, I think, to try to prove myself. Some gals can lift just as much as these guys, but I’m 53; I can’t anymore.”
But everyone brings their own unique skill set, like Andy Moe from Central Pierce Fire, who back home holds the title of daddy to 2-year-old Ashtin and husband to wife Kristin.
But out in the field he’s known as a rescue specialist.
“This is by far a different experience for sure,” said Moe.
That’s in part because the flood waters were so deep – at times more than 10 feet, which was deeper than most here have ever seen.
“It’s overwhelming,” he said.
There were others on the team who have dedicated their life to helping others, including longtime Tacoma firefighter Buck Copsey.
Copsey considers himself a worker, but during this mission he’s at the helm of the team of 17. But Copsey won’t take the credit. He says it’s all due to the folks with whom he’s surrounded.
“You won’t find a better group of folks anywhere,” he said. “These guys don’t know each other. They don’t work with each other. They’re from all over the region. You throw them into this situation, and look at them.”
Those are folks like Pierce County Sherriff’s Deputy J. Sausley
“It feels good,” he said. “This is what we train for. I’ve been on the team, and this is my third deployment, and you don’t get to come out and do this stuff very often.”