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‘Helping our Hawaiian families’: Indiana Task Force 1 describes difficult search for wildfire victims

Indiana Task Force 1 speaks on aid in Hawaii recovery

MAUI, Hawaii (WISH) — Indiana Task Force 1 has reported great physical and mental health among its 70 specially-trained first responders and medical experts in Hawaii.

The team deployed nearly one week ago to provide search and rescue support following the devastating Maui wildfire.

Indianapolis Fire Department Battalion Chief Jay Settergren leads the team that represents 16 central Indiana fire departments, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, and civilians.

Settergren said Wednesday that the team was expected to complete its first assignment earlier than expected. INTF-1 had been searching an apartment building for any of the more than 1,000 people not yet accounted for following the fires that broke out on Aug. 8. 

“We all have one goal in common and that’s to do the best work we can and make sure that the folks here know that we’ve gone through these different sites and thoroughly searched them for the missing,” said Settergren. “I can’t help but be more proud of the work that our folks have done. They’ve really worked hard the last five days and because of that we’re finishing the work on this site that we thought would take a couple extra days.”

The task force’s leader credits encouragement communicated from home in Indiana for the team’s strength and efficiency.

“We see all of the well wishes. You know, they pour into our office back there. It helps us do the work we do here with that emotional support and knowing that we have people back there that are cheering for us to be able to complete this work and help these folks. I know a lot of those Hoosiers who would like to be here helping, and you know, we’re fortunate enough to be able to do that,” he said.

The task force has also reported receiving a great deal of appreciation from the community it is helping. Settergren told WISH-TV that islanders have expressed thanks by bringing food and sharing their culture as the team members carry out the work.

Indiana Task Force 1 is one of 28 urban search and rescue teams sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.