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Fairfax Search and Rescue Team Helps With Hurricane Irene Recovery in Conn.

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Virginia Task Force 1 (VATF-1) Urban Search and Rescue received its activation orders from the federal government and is currently responding to damage from Hurricane Irene in Conn.
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Virginia Task Force 1 (VATF-1) Urban Search and Rescue received its activation orders from the federal government and is currently responding to damage from Hurricane Irene in Conn.

Virginia was spared the worst of Hurricane Irene, but the commonwealth's most experienced first responders have been active since before the storm even hit.

Virginia Task Force 1, the Fairfax County-based search and rescue squad, has had a team on duty for five days already. The team has changed locations twice to help with Hurricane recovery efforts as needed. On Monday the team was dispatched to Connecticut.

Battalion chief Chris Schaff, who is not on the current mission, says the 74-member team includes physicians and K-9 units.

"We also have swift water assets including boats, and swift water rescue technicians embedded with the group," adds Schaff.

The Fairfax task force is one of only two such units in the country with international search and rescue experience. Earlier this year, team members traveled to Japan to help out after the Fukushima earthquake. Schaff says that, in some ways, the hectic travel this week has been just as draining for team members on the mission.

"It has kept us busy -- this one especially -- because they've been in three different locations in three different states," he says. "So it's been a lot of road trips for this team here".

Schaff says federal emergency officials will decide how long the team stays on duty, but he says task force members are prepared for up to two weeks of work at a time.

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