CHICAGO - Sixty-eight firefighters from 30 different locations across the Chicago area are heading down south to help victims of Hurricane Ida.
They are part of a strike team that will aid crippled fire departments in Louisiana.
A group of 45 Chicago area firefighters just returned from the south.
Mutual Aid Box Alarm System — also known as MABAS — and Illinois Task Force 1 are made up of members from various fire departments throughout the state. On Tuesday, these first responders returned from ravished parishes in Louisiana. Their mission was search and rescue.
They helped people get food, water and even oxygen. They conducted 5,900 searches on the ground, surveying damage so that FEMA and the Red Cross would know where and who needed help.
"Did they help, rescue people from situations that had they not have been there at that time, that would have led to a life-threatening situation? Absolutely, yes," an official said.
The strike team will be there to fill in for fire departments in case there are fire calls or ambulance runs. They could be there for 17 days.
It’s selfless work because these crews have no idea exactly where their boots will be needed on the ground.
Aurora’s fire chief says five of his squad members are making the trip.
"They don’t know exactly what they are going to do," said Aurora Fire Chief Gary Krienitz. "We got the call to come help. They don’t even know where they will be staying. They knew it was a need and went to go help."
In the coming days, 160 members of the Illinois Army National Guard will mobilize at the request of the Louisiana National Guard to provide manpower and equipment to assist with commodities distribution, general search and rescue, storm debris removal and route clearance, and general security and curfew enforcement.
Also in the coming days, a 46-member Search and Rescue Team from MABAS-Illinois is expected to return from Louisiana. The Urban Search and Rescue teams worked alongside local rescuers to conduct search, rescue, and recovery missions for humans and animals in flooded environments.