Michiganians head to Florida to help hurricane recovery

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

First responders and more than 1,000 soldiers from the Michigan Army National Guard are deploying staff to Florida and other parts of the United States to help those affected by Hurricane Irma and assist in recovery efforts.

Florida National Guard amphibious vehicles stage at Raymond James Stadium Sunday in Tampa, as Hurricane Irma continues to churn through the state. National Guardsmen and first responders from Michigan will join them.

Michigan Task Force 1 deployed 45 members in 18 vehicles from Holly on Sunday on an 11-day mission to aid the response to Hurricane Irma, MI-TF1 spokesman Dave McIntyre said.

The task force includes highly trained personnel from across the state who are capable of surface water rescue, wide-area searches, structural collapse, canine and technical search that are equipped of being self-sustaining for 11 days, McIntyre said.

Michigan Task Force 1 is scheduled to stage efforts in Jacksonville, Florida, to meet with task forces from Florida, Wisconsin and Tennessee before receiving their mission assignments to begin helping Florida residents.

The task force has personnel responding from fire departments from Sterling Heights, Southfield, Garden City, Groveland, Oakland, North Oakland Fire Authority, Bloomfield, Independence, Detroit, Northville, Dexter Area Fire Authority, Canton Township, Dearborn, Ann Arbor, Shelby Township, Walker, St Clair Shores, Livonia, Ferndale, Green Oaks, Eastpointe and Summit Township.

The Michigan Army National Guard is sending more than 1,000 soldiers on Tuesday to help those affected by the hurricane.

The guard says it will be providing security, humanitarian assistance and aircraft maintenance. Approximately 425 soldiers from the 126th Infantry Regiment will first head to Camp Grayling in northern Michigan, pack equipment and then depart for Florida on Tuesday.

Maj. Gen. Gregory Vadnais says guard members “are anxious to get down there.” There will be dozens of vehicles and trucks in that convoy, he said.

Deployments from Michigan also include Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division staff members deployed to Kansas and New Jersey to help with emergency coordination between states.

First responders and the Michigan Army National Guard are deploying staff to Florida and other parts of the United States to help those affected by Hurricane Irma and assist in recovery efforts. (photo courtesy of Michigan Mutual Aid Box Alarm System)

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley said the deployments are the result of requests made for out-of-state support through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact.

“Michiganders stand with our fellow Americans dealing with the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey,” Calley said. “Safety always needs to be the No. 1 priority during emergencies and we are keeping everyone in the path of the storm in our thoughts.

“The American people come together during times like this and I’m extremely proud of the way our first responders are answering the call for help and deploying to help with relief efforts,” he said.

Capt. Chris Kelenske, deputy state director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and commander of the MSP/EMHSD, said his department has maintained daily contact with the affected State Emergency Operations Centers and Emergency Management Assistance Compact coordinators and will continue to be ready to answer the call for resources.

“I am confident our highly trained first responders will provide the (utmost) support in the response and recovery of this disaster,” Kelenske said.

On Friday, Calley also signed an executive directive waiving hour and fuel restrictions as well as weigh station rules for motor carriers providing assistance to states affected by hurricanes.