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Indiana Task Force 1 returns home from mission after deadly Maui fires

Indiana Task Force 1 returns home from Maui

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana Task Force 1 is back home after completing its mission in Maui, Hawaii, to find victims of the devastating fires.

At least 115 people died and 2,000 structures were destroyed in the fires, the deadliest in the U.S. in more than a century.

Indiana Task Force 1 spent days of working against the clock searching for missing loved ones Members of Indiana Task Force 1 called it a challenging mission. They say while they’re happy to be home their hearts are still with the islanders impacted by the wildfires.

Seventy first responders and civilians from across central Indiana make up the task force.

Jay Settergren, leader of Indiana Task Force 1, said Monday, “Our guys did an outstanding job like they always do. They’re just very professional, very hardworking, and they just … I couldn’t be more proud.”

Michael Pruitt, safety officer for the task force, talked Monday about what they found in Maui. “It was just mind-boggling that that much destruction happened that quick and people could not escape it.”

Pruitt says trying to find people was difficult due to hazardous debris.

Settergren said, “We had obviously respiratory concerns working in all the ash. Many of those buildings were old so they contained asbestos, so we really had to be strict with our respiratory protection.”

They said that, for some of the task force members, this devastation was unlike anything they’d ever seen, and they worked closely with the FBI and local police officers to find missing loved ones.

Settergren said, “Once we had our dogs alert, we brought in anthropologists and they were the ones that went through to determine if it was truly human remains there or if it was something else and then they would process it from there.”

Overall, the task force members on Monday were just happy to be home and thankful for the people of Maui who received them with open arms.

Settergren said, “The locals were very happy to have us there to help work through this process because you can’t get past this and into the recovery phase until they’ve done this, so they were extremely happy,”

Indiana Task Force 1 members also say they hope their presence made a positive impact in the search for missing loved ones.