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Four Missouri Task Force One members, K-9s begin work in Maui


Four Missouri Task Force One members and K-9s who were deployed earlier this week to Maui began searching for human remains Thursday morning.

Those four more members on Wednesday flew out of St. Louis to join the search and rescue efforts. That was after two members were deployed last week as part of the incident report team for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

More than 1,000 people are still unaccounted for on Maui and 111 people have died, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said in a Thursday video on Facebook. Boone County Fire Protection District Assistant Chief Gale Blomenkamp said there are two main search areas where the fires blew through with short notice.

"So, their big task out there is to dwindle that list down," Blomenkamp said. "Find the people that left the island, find the people that are accounted for, and then try to find the people that are being unaccounted for to see if there's human remains in those houses or locations that burned."

That is why Human Remains Detection K-9s have been deployed.

"It's an ugly thing, but it's a necessity that they find these human remains so they can provide some closure for the families out there in Hawaii," Blomenkamp said.

The K-9s would usually need to go through quarantine, but due to the disaster, those policies were waived and the dogs got their vet checks right away. Due to the dangerous working conditions, the dogs can only work for 10-15 minutes at a time. The handlers are required to wear facial protective gear as well as protective footwear and clothing, because they are working in ash.

"But, you know, these resources are there for about two weeks and so once they get there and they feel like they have enough resources, they'll keep working and, you know, when they start coming up on that two weeks, if they need more they'll backfill and refill," Blomenkamp said. "But until then, there's a chance they could call us today and say 'Hey, we want the whole task force'."

BCFPD is able to track its team at the scene through SARCOP, Search and Rescue Common Operating Platform. Each member has a GPS locator attached to their person and through the platform, the BCFPD can see exactly where they have been using satellite imaging.

The team is able to pin waypoints to mark things of interest. As of Thursday, there were 3,991 waypoints marked and 224 of those were marked on that day.

Article Topic Follows: News
boone county fire protection district
hawaii wildfires
missouri task force one

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Grace Pankey


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