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Hurricane Florence volunteers fit for helicopter rescues destroyed in North Carolina

Around 120 rescues are carried out by the National Guard, in coordination with HEART since Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina on Sept. 14, with a total of 225 people and five animals rescued from dangerous water.

(Fox News)

RALEIGH, N. C. – As a new day begins, helicopter search and rescue technician Trey Young walks in the North Carolina National Guard Base in Raleigh armed in a black flight suit adorned with colorful spots, eager to help with post-Hurricane Florence air rescue missions.

He is here on loan from his usual daily work, fire-fighting in Asheville, to be a part of the North Carolina Helicopter and Aquatic Rescue Team, also known as NCHART, a specialized program for the combining of the National Guard, the State Highway Patrol and North Carolina Emergency Management with local rescue technicians to perform helicopter rescues. Young is among a cadre of well-trained local citizens to help in the aftermath of the storm, the support of local and national authorities, as they rescue those trapped by the rising water.

“The best part of this job is the opportunity to help people, that can’t be otherwise helped,” Young said. “When we get there, it is because there is no other way that people walk is failed, the boats have failed, we are a kind of last resort to people in safety.”

Brandon King, lead pilot for the state of the HEART team, said that the local citizens are included in rescue operations gives the state a “special skills” and is a “huge asset.”

“This is our house…we know this state like the back of our hand, if you know your backyard,” said the King. “We know where the rivers are, we know where the waters are going to flood.”

North Carolina is the first state to institute the HEART program 14 years ago, with South Carolina and Texas soon following. Today, a number of other states are in discussions to start with the recruiting.

“The initial training of a week-long class…then about three days of flying in a helicopter, then we do monthly training after that year,” said fellow HEART savior Bobby Cooper, whose full-time job is EMS Director for the Province of Transylvania. “We have to practice with the different equipment and scenarios that we can run…we train in something of a flat surface to the cars that are simulated in the moving water…go in windows of buildings…getting someone who is stuck in a tree…”

“We find that on these missions, the things that we do in training on a monthly basis are often more difficult than what we encounter in the field and that’s just a credit to a very strong training program,” says Young.

Asheville firefighter, and HEART-helicopter search and rescue technician Trey Young explains how the workers hoist a basket down to the victims in the air rescues.

(Fox News)

Cooper said that the people that he saves are sometimes surprised to learn that a fellow civilian saved.

“They get a little nervous at first, but once they realize that you are there to help them…they know that they are in good hands at that point,” he said.

Around 120 rescues are carried out by the National Guard, in coordination with HEART since Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina on Sept. 14, with a total of 225 people and five animals rescued from dangerous water.

Teams go on these challenging rescues with UH-60 Blackhawks or UH-72 Lakotas from the Guard or the Highway Patrol’s Bell 407. Rescuers will be sent down, one to two to two, by means of a cable and hoist, but they say even with top-of-the-line equipment, the planning of the logistics of a rescue can be difficult.

A map of North Carolina’s aeronautical search and rescue chart hangs on a wall in the hangar at the U. S. Army National Guard Base in Raleigh, N. C.

(Fox News)

“Our biggest challenge is moving from a rescue without the full picture,” said the Young, if he is prepared to the displacement of the basket in the back of the helicopter for his next save. “We are often with the responsibility of determining what is the salvation issue is from the air, often without communication with the ground.”

Young said even with decades of rescue experience shared in the HEART team, the widespread scale of natural disasters have surprises and do them.

The team is sent not only to rescue in North Carolina, but across the country, depending on the question. Some were sent to help the Hurricane Harvey hit Houston last August.

“It is incredibly difficult to describe the widespread nature of the destruction there,” said the Young. “Certainly, we see similar things here with Florence, but Harvey is a scale that I’m sure I had never seen before and it was so instructive.”

If the state of the rivers prepare to crest, or reach its highest point, at the end of this week, HEART members of the team are preparing for what likely will be more rescues.

“Florence is gone and moved on but the effects are still here and they are still growing,” said Young. “In this state, it is a team and a mission. The Guard does the aviating and we can do the rescue technician work, but it is one team and one mission.”

Allie Raffa is a multimedia reporter for Fox News based in Tampa.

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