By Shawn Chitnis
LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4)– Colorado Task Force 1 returned from its deployment to the east coast on Thursday after spending more than two weeks helping with the response to Hurricane Florence.
“We’re just really glad to be home and go see our families and spend some time with the people we love,” said Steve Aseltine, task force leader for the group.
The team made up of first responders from across the Front Range spent 36 hours on the road making their way back to Colorado. They spent 15 days deployed on the ground in the Carolinas.
“The experience of working with such a professional group from different departments and working together to positively impact the people of North Carolina,” said Rick Peterson on what was most memorable about the trip.
His family was waiting to greet him when he and the task force arrived at a training facility for West Metro Fire Rescue. His two daughters made signs to welcome him home.
“It was actually really, emotional and heartening to see the girls,” he said. “I think they did grow an inch a piece.”
Aseltine said his team was assigned to Robertson County in North Carolina. He was glad they got time to plan and identify risk areas by arriving ahead of the storm. As an experienced team, he says they were not surprised by anything they encountered on the deployment.
While on the ground, they had to assist another team of rescuers when a military vehicle got hit by a flash flood.
“We had to immediately deploy a boat with rope systems, and then evacuate all those individuals from that situation,” he said of the response to help members of the local National Guard and residents.
CO-TF 1 has deployed to other serious disasters including Hurricane Katrina and 9/11. But they treat each one as a serious and unique assignment.
“Everyone is different, that’s for sure, and this had its own challenges,” he said.
The task force leader says what stays with him even after returning home is the significant loss the people of that state now face after the storm.
“We were working with people that very little to begin with and now have no material possessions whatsoever,” he said.
It will be a long road for the people affected by Florence to return to normal. But he believes they are prepared for the challenge.
“All they have left is the resilience of their community, that community’s support, and the recovery process,” he said.