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Phoenix firefighters coming home after helping Harvey, Irma victims

Members of the Phoenix Fire Department's Arizona Task Force 1 urban search and rescue team work to help victims of Hurricane Irma in Marco Island, Florida. (Phoenix Fire Department Photo)

PHOENIX — A team of Phoenix firefighters will likely head home on Wednesday after spending weeks rescuing people from flooded communities in Texas and Florida.

“We will complete our mission [Tuesday] and probably stay one more night on the island, but that could change,” Assistant Fire Chief Shelly Jamison said.

The 80-member Arizona Task Force 1 urban search and rescue team was first deployed to Texas late last month after Hurricane Harvey flooded coastal areas near Houston. While there, the team rescued nearly 20 people from floodwaters in Katy, Texas.

Jamison said the team agreed unanimously to extend its deployment to help Hurricane Irma victims last week, but it was time for them to come home.

“Families miss their husbands and wives and kids miss their parents,” she said. “In order to keep our members whole and get them back to work where they can ride a big, red fire truck, we want to honor that 21-day (deployment extension) mark.”

The team was stationed in Goodland Island, a tiny town on the west side of the tip of Florida, on Tuesday. The area was hit hard by Hurricane Irma.

The Miami Herald reported much of the remote fishing village was destroyed after the storm circled back over the area Sunday before heading northward.

“The sky grew dark, very dark, and the wind and rain began,” said Mark Jones, who had stayed behind in his trailer, after sending the rest of his family to a shelter in Naples.

“Then, all of a sudden, everything stopped. It was quiet, the sky was almost clear … when that eyewall hit, it was perfect calm for almost an hour,” he recalled.

Photos sent by the Phoenix team showed a school scoreboard in ruins and fallen trees in front of homes on the nearby Marco Island, a popular resort community, which was also hit hard by Irma.

The team was praised for its work by Marco Island Fire Chief Mike Murphy during an interview with CNN.

“It’s a great federal assist that was put here to help us and our community,” he said.

KTAR News’ Jim Cross contributed to this report.

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