Fairfax County firefighters help hurricane-ravaged Bahamas

Personnel with Virginia Task Force 1 load up and prepare to head to the Bahamas, which were battered by Hurricane Dorian. (Courtesy Virginia Task Force 1)

The international humanitarian response to the hurricane disaster in the Bahamas includes help from across the U.S. and from members of Fairfax County Fire and Rescue in Virginia.

The local search and rescue team that’s known as USA-1, when working internationally, is deployed along with firefighters from Los Angeles County as part of USAID’s Disaster Assistance Response Team.

“Members of both teams comprised of 57 members and four K-9s will be conducting search and rescue missions, along with conducting humanitarian assessments and providing medical treatment to any citizens they encounter,” said Bill Vannoy, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue battalion chief and USA-1 task force leader in the Bahamas, in a tweeted video.

As of Thursday afternoon, some of the Virginia team members were conducting aerial assessments by plane with the U.S. Coast Guard on the northern Bahamian island of Abaco, one of the areas severely impacted by Hurricane Dorian.

USAID also has coordinated the delivery of supplies for hurricane victims, USAID Administrator Mark Green said in a tweet. Green said supplies were enough to help 31,500 people, which included hygiene kits, buckets and water containers, and rolls of plastic sheeting.

When Fairfax County’s search and rescue team deploys domestically, it does so as Virginia Task Force-1, or VA-TF1, and is funded and coordinated through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue spokesperson Ashley Hildebrandt told WTOP in an email.

“No local tax dollars go toward supporting the team or its mission whether domestic or international. This includes equipment, training, compensation, etc.,” Hildebrandt said.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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