When Hurricane Harvey slammed into the Texas coast, 17 members of Washington’s Task Force 1, experts in urban search and rescue, were dispatched to Houston to look for survivors.
Members of the task force serve as local police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel by day, but are often called on by FEMA to assist in disaster response and recovery.
Paul Copsey, a task force member who works for the Tacoma Fire Department, said Friday in an interview from Katy, Texas, that the scope of devastation there is “mind boggling.”
Copsey was also on the ground with Task Force 1 after the 2014 Oso landslide, which claimed 43 lives.
“This is magnitudes larger that Oso,” he said by phone. “This is an area that is just mind-boggling in how large it is and the area it has affected.”
“However, to compare the two is pretty easy, honestly. Because the people here are the same as the people who were in Oso. They have banded together. They are helping each other out. They are standing strong with each other. They are doing anything they can to help each other – and also us. These people have lost everything, and yet they’re still bringing us food. They’re still trying to buy us coffee. They’re still trying to make us welcome in their community, because we came down to help them. And that’s the same thing that the people in Oso did for us.”
Copsey said it is unclear how long they could remain in Texas. He said members have been overwhelmed with the ongoing support.
“The prayers. The good thoughts. Trust me, they’re greatly appreciated.”