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The JFRD Emergency Road Access Team is helping rescue workers get to victims of Hurricane Ian in Southwest Florida

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville is playing an important role in Southwest Florida’s recovery efforts from Hurricane Ian.

Crews from Jacksonville Fire and EMS Fire Station 4 downtown and across the city have been in the southern part of the state since the storm. In fact, there are more than 100 firefighters and officers from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office on duty down there.

Some of them from Fire Station 4 form a search and rescue team. But there’s also a crew that goes ahead of them to clear the way for rescuers to get to the victims, and it started in Jacksonville more than 20 years ago. It is the Emergency Road Access Team, also called ERAT.

“What they’re doing is they’re going in and they’re opening up those streets before the emergency equipment so they can get in there quicker and do the rescue work that’s needed,” said JFRD chief Keith Powers. “But it’s heavy equipment. They are electricians to take care of the power lines and they are a JSO officer to take care of our security. And then of course the firefighters who go in and cut down the trees and use the heavy equipment to get them off the streets and blast those streets.”

And while this crew was at work in Fort Myers last week, they did more than just clear streets.

“Someone came out and got him and said, ‘There’s a man yelling over here in a house.’ What actually happened was that the lower floor of this house was blown away by the water. He was on the second floor. It threw it about 60 or 80 meters into a swimming pool. The man was chest-deep in water for several hours and trapped under all this debris.” Powers detailed. “And our firefighters went over there, one drilled into their foundation while two others took pieces of scrap wood and made a makeshift stretcher and tunneled in from the top and came down and got this guy out and got medical attention.”

This is only one team, but others help with the search and recovery.

“That’s the kind of work that our men and women do,” Powers said. “And to say it makes me proud is the understatement of the year.”

The idea of ​​ERAT could now become part of the national hurricane response to clear areas so rescue can take place.

Jacksonville plays an important role in Southwest Florida’s recovery efforts from Hurricane Ian. (Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Service)
Jacksonville plays an important role in Southwest Florida’s recovery efforts from Hurricane Ian. (Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Service)
Jacksonville plays an important role in Southwest Florida’s recovery efforts from Hurricane Ian. (Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Service)

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