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Texas Task Force 1 Deploys To West Disaster

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*10 P.M. Update*

First responders including from right here in the Brazos Valley are helping search for the survivors and those who lost their lives in the West Fertilizer Plant explosion.

News 3 was in College Station as Texas Task Force 1 Deployed early Thursday morning and learned about the work they are doing in West.

Total devastation is the startling reality for residents of the Central Texas town of West.

But signs of help are everywhere now as well.

80 members of the state's elite urban search and rescue team, Texas Task Force 1 were out assisting local responders at a gutted apartment complex.

Paul Gunnels does Safety Management for Texas Task Force 1 and explained to us their procedures as they deployed from College Station.

"Doing a wide area search looking for survivors first, that's our initial always and then mark any recoveries that we find and continue that process," Gunnels said.

Pictures posted on their Facebook showed them on scene on the streets of West and gathering at one of the damaged schools.

"Most people on this team probably have anywhere between 15 to 30 years experience in the fire service They've developed those skills and how to tolerate those environments," Gunnels added.

Brian Blake is the Communications Director for the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service.

"Texas Task Force 1 is most deployed of the FEMA search and rescue teams all across the United States and these really are the best of the best," Blake said.

"And our job is to go there as a state asset and support their needs and become part of them and let them tell us what they need. We work for them," said Paul Gunnels.

Working in West which resembles a war zone, more so than a typical small Texas town.

We don't know how long the task force will be deployed in West but it could range anywhere from one to three days.

*Noon Update*

First responders have been working through the night, searching home by home in the Central Texas town of West.

Now, they're getting some reinforcements.

Texas Task Force 1 deployed to West to assist in recovery efforts after the explosion at the fertilizer plant.

Doing life-saving work is something members of Texas Task Force 1 are called to do at a moment's notice.

Thursday morning 80 members of the team were gearing up and loading up to drive to West to assist with the catastrophic fertilizer plant explosion there.

"Our goal is to get there and help the local first responders," said Paul Gunnels, with Texas Task Force 1 Safety Management.

He is also a College Station Fire Captain.

"We have a lot of assets and equipment that this team has. Structural collapse specialist and we'll bring those to help the locals and help them do whatever they need. We are at their disposal as a state resource," he added.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the folks in West," said Brian Blake, who is the Communications Director for the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service.

He says five K-9 search teams and other experts are traveling too.

"They have equipment they can use to shore any structure that might be unsafe, so they can affect search and rescue of that structure plus search cameras, listening devices. Anything that they might need in a disaster of this nature," said Blake.

Then just before 6 the bus and trucks began to role.

“You learn to cope with it. Move forward. Do what you do and kind of our motto, do our job," said Paul Gunnels.

Giving their gifts to a town desperately in need of help.

We don't know how long the task force will be deployed in West but it could range anywhere from one to even three days.

*Previous Story*
First responders from across the state are in West helping with what's described as a war zone after a fertilizer plant exploded leveling blocks of buildings and killing multiple people.

Members of the state's elite urban search and rescue team Texas Task Force 1 deployed Thursday morning to help.

News 3 was there as crews left.

80 members of Texas Task Force 1 left just a little before 6 Thursday morning after getting the call to load up and head to West at midnight.

The team includes firefighters, K-9's and the state's best team of search and recovery specialists.

It will take them an hour and a half to two hours to get to West and they'll find out the assignment when they get there.

"I'm not sure right now. I'm not aware if they are in rescue mode but if they are we'll look for those survivors. At some point it will become a you know a type of thing recovery, at that point we would start searching for recoveries and we may find them along the way doing any type of search," said Paul Gunnels, Texas Task Force 1 Safety Management.

We don't know how long the team will in West but it could be one to even three days.

The team is taking five dogs, search cameras and all necessary tools for searching collapsed environments.

Stay with KBTX for the latest on the explosion disaster.


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