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Arizona firefighters deployed to Southeast for Hurricane Dorian efforts

Bill Bailey, assistant chief of the Emerald Isle Police Department, walks past a damaged trailer in the Holiday Trav-l Park on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019, in Emerald Isle, N.C, after a possible tornado generated by Hurricane Dorian struck the area. (AP Photo/Julia Wall)

PHOENIX — Arizona firefighters are being deployed to the Southeast to help keep people safe during Hurricane Dorian.

A 15-person Phoenix Fire Department Task Force 1 team was in South Carolina on Thursday, while a 20-person Mesa hotshot crew was stationed in North Carolina.

Shelly Jamison, assistant chief with Phoenix Fire, said the department’s task force is one of 28 nationwide that responds to emergencies.

“We have boats, we have team members that are specially water trained, so they’re prepared for water rescue when the storm hits and if, indeed, it results in flooding,” she told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Thursday.

She said deployments typically last about two weeks, but in the past two years, hurricanes have kept them working for three weeks.

“When we deploy, we deploy with the thought in mind we could be gone up to 21 days. It’s never longer,” she told KTAR News on Tuesday.

Patrick Moore, superintendent of the Mesa Interagency Hotshot Crew, said their firefighters will help out with things like clearing streets and combating flooding.

“Our chainsaw use and how we use them in the wildland environment makes us ideal candidates to reopen roadways and help get a start into power lines right away,” he told KTAR News on Tuesday.

While the hotshot crews aren’t trained to help with search and rescue, they can fill in where needed, he said, citing hauling sandbags as an example.

Moore said the shift in job duties can be a little tough for them to wrap their heads around.

“We’ve been thinking fires all summer, and now we’re going into a very different situation,” he said.

Hurricane Dorian hit the Carolinas on Thursday, spinning off tornadoes and knocking out power to more than 200,000 homes and businesses.

Leaving at least 20 people dead in its wake in the devastated Bahamas, Dorian swept past Florida on Wednesday at a relatively safe distance, grazed Georgia overnight, and then began hugging the South Carolina coastline with more serious effects.

The storm strengthened briefly to a Category 3 hurricane, then dropped back to a Category 2, with winds of 110 mph, still a threat to hundreds of miles of coastline.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jim Cross and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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