Maryland Task Force 1 rescue team heads out as Hurricane Fiona hits Puerto Rico

The Maryland Task Force 1 urban search-and-rescue team, based in Montgomery County, left for Puerto Rico Monday to help as Hurricane Fiona hits the island.

The group of 35, one of 28 teams across the nation under the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is made up of highly trained professionals, including doctors and structural engineers from across the state, said task force leader Joe Keefer. Participating agencies include Howard County Fire and Rescue, D.C. Fire and EMS, and Prince George’s County Fire and EMS.

“Our main mission is to go out to disaster areas,” said Keefer.



The storm knocked out power Sunday and caused landslides. Forecasters believe the storm could dump “historic” rainfall through Monday: Up to 30 inches are possible in eastern and southern Puerto Rico.

Once the team touches down, Keefer said, the plan is to assess the damage in affected areas and get right to work assisting people who may be trapped in buildings — either due to flooding or collapse.

Most of their deployments are 10 to 14 days, but the plan is to stay on the ground until the work is done.

“They’ve trained for this. They’re all in a good state of mind. They’re ready to go to work and ready to go help,” Keefer said. “It’s an honor to be able to go do that, and everybody here is highly motivated.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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