Marion County Fire Rescue’s Urban Search and Rescue team, Task Force 8, has received over $904,000 in grant funding from the State of Florida’s Freedom First Budget, which was signed by Governor Ron DeSantis in May of 2022.
Task Force 8 consists of firefighters, paramedics, and emergency telecommunications dispatchers from Marion County, Ocala, and Gainesville. According to MCFR, the grant funding will help to maintain the search and rescue team’s vehicle fleet, rescue equipment, and training.
“Our world-class Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) teams serve an important role in assisting state and local first responders during disasters,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “I am proud to be able to provide record state funding to Florida’s eight US&R teams which will better prepare Florida for the next disaster.”
MCFR states that Task Force 8 has allotted more than $724,000 for machinery and equipment, over $140,000 for operating supplies, and more than $36,000 on personal protective equipment.
“We would like to thank Governor DeSantis and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis for this funding to modernize and standardize machinery and equipment provided to each of the eight Florida Urban Search and Rescue teams,” said Robert Graff, MCFR Deputy Chief and Task Force 8’s team leader.
Graff added, “This funding will prove crucial whether we deploy in support of disasters here in our home state or in other states.”
Task Force 8 was deployed to the Champlain Tower Collapse in Surfside and, most recently, to Lee County to assist with rescue efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.
Since the Florida US&R system was created in 2001, these teams have provided invaluable support during disasters. MCFR states that US&R teams also play an important role in the immediate aftermath of a hurricane by conducting search and rescue missions, helping to clear a path to the most devastated areas to help provide lifesaving actions, and aiding utility crews and emergency road clearance teams.