PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — When disaster strikes and tragedy follows, there is one group of brave and dedicated people always there, ready to help. That group was recently pressed into service not once, but twice, as powerful hurricanes ravaged the southern states.
Lt. Kenneth Pagurek is a Philadelphia firefighter. He’s also the program manager of PA Task Force 1. He’s just getting acclimated home after back-to-back deployments.
“The resiliency of the people in the communities that we tend to respond to is amazing to me. It’s humbling. Rewarding,” Kenneth said.
The task force is one of FEMA’s 28 national search and rescue teams.
He gave CBS3’s Chandler Lutz a look inside their warehouse. “Anything that we would need to effect a rescue is contained in this vehicle,” he said.
“And this is always loaded?” said Chandler Lutz.
“Always,” he said.
Once they accept their mission, they have to be ready to roll in just four hours.
“And what happens within those four hours you have?” Chandler asked.
“It’s like running a sprint,” Kenneth said. “You go from zero to 120 miles an hour.”
The Task Force spent 19 long days in the Carolinas after Hurricane Florence. They had a few days home, then for some members, it was back on the road as Hurricane Michael slammed Florida’s panhandle.
“Both deployments were dramatically different,” Kenneth said. “You know, Florence was predominantly a waterborne environment. Michael, there was a tremendous amount of timber that had been felled by the storm. So our folks were basically having to cut their way.”
While their missions are difficult, their objective is simple: make rescues, save lives, and return home.
“It’s super rewarding,” he said. “Words don’t do it justice. To be able to help people when they are having maybe the worst day of their life, and have a positive impact on them and help turn what a bad day for them a little bit better, is priceless.”
While Kenneth doesn’t consider himself a hero, we’re proud to give him and the rest of PA Task Force 1 three cheers.