CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Ohio Task Force 1 just got back from rescuing Hurricane Harvey victims and could be leaving shortly to help victims of Hurricane Irma.
The statewide urban search and rescue unit's top two commanders dropped by our FOX19 NOW studio for a live interview Thursday morning.
Cincinnati Fire Captain Mike Cayse and Sycamore Township Fire Captain Jeff Newman discussed the very real possibility the task force, which just arrived home Tuesday night, could be called up at any moment to deploy to Florida.
Hurricane Irma, which already has killed 10 people in the Caribbean, is poised to strike South Florida Sunday. A Hurricane Watch was issued Thursday morning for the state's west and east coasts.
If the Category 5 storm remains as strong as it is now, 80-85 task force members will head down.
Cayse and Newman predicted their biggest problem will be trying to get through the narrow Sunshine State to the hardest hit areas.
"In (Hurricane) Katrina we were two hours out, but it took us eight hours to get in ... just because of the damage we were trying to go through," Newman said.
The veteran firefighters recounted their experiences rescuing victims in Texas during their 10 days of deployment.
On the way, they stopped to help those in need in Corpus Christi and Katy, Texas.
"It was very overwhelming," Cayse said. "We are trained to do these things and we got there and we knew kind of what to expect but it was one of the more significant responses we ever made. There was more water in a three day period than we've ever seen in any hurricane we've ever been to in any response we've ever made."
The task force was thrown into action as soon as they arrived near Houston. They immediately launched rescue boats right from their staging area.
"The event was occurring while we arrived down there. In fact, at one point, our trucks and our people were actually trapped by the water," Newman recalled.
The task force responded to several emergency calls around the Houston area, including rescuing elderly from nursing homes and flooded buildings.
They said they were impressed by the resilient and brave Texans, who launched their own personal boats into deep and dangerous floodwaters to help their neighbors before rescue teams arrived.
"It was amazing. The people of Houston, they didn't wait for help," Cayse said.
"They were bringing people out, they set up their own reception centers when the people got off the boat. They gave them food, they put blankets around them and they put them in vehicles and took them to safety before any kind government response got there. So they are an amazing city. They really take care of themselves."