BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. - Working hundreds of feet above ground in an emergency is not a task many willingly sign up to do, but it's just one of the crises for which the Southwest Florida Urban Search and Rescue Task Force is trained.
Greg DeWitt, a rescue specialist with the task force, was part of the four-man crew sent up a 714-foot radio tower Monday night to retrieve power contractor Nick Rouskey.
Like many of his fellow rescuers, DeWitt never had a job quite like it before, though he trained for it for years.
"Adrenaline kicks in. It's one of those things, you got a job to do, you rely on your training, you rely on your knowledge," says DeWitt, who is also a Bonita Springs firefighter.
The 80-member USAR task force was founded in 1998, according to Task Force Leader Ken Craft. Crew members come from several emergency response agencies around Lee County.
"The agencies came together, pooling their money, pooling their resources, pooling their personnel to form this specialized team," says Craft.
With $2-million in equipment, the team specializes in more than a half-dozen unique rescue techniques, working below ground, in confined spaces, collapsed buildings, and fast-moving water. Some team members also train in large-animal rescue.
According to Craft, the group has been activated roughly twenty times since it formed.
"In this specialty, and given our team, that's a tremendous amount," Craft says. "That's more than a lot of the other teams that specialize in this have ever done."
The task force has also been called to work out-of-state. David Cambareri, a rescue specialist since the group's formation, says they've helped with the recovery after Hurricanes Katrina and Charley.
"We had a lot of destruction out on [Pine] island and basically went door to door, doing structural triage and making sure there were no trapped victims," says Cambareri.
Safety specialist Phil Brown, who's also the Iona-McGregor Fire District Chief, says they're rarely called upon, but still train two to three times a year, so they're ready when specialized training is need.
Brown says he takes pride in the work they do when they are called in.
"You're pinned in a car, and I get you out. It's the look the person gives you, and you can't put a price on that. That's why I do it," says Brown.