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Texas’ Elite Search & Rescue Team Recalls Finding Closure In West

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Brian New
Brian joined the CBS 11 News team in 2013 after working a...
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WEST (CBS 11 NEWS) - When the fertilizer plant in West exploded, Texas Task Force One was called in to search the area closest to the plant for survivors.  They didn’t find any.

Instead, this elite group of highly trained firefighters from across Texas found the bodies of 14 victims.

Jeff Saunders, the operations manager Texas Task Force One, said, “It’s not always about finding people.  It’s a lot of times about closure.”

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After helping with the recovery efforts in the attacks on 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, members of the Texas Task Force One said they understood how important closure was for West to begin to healing.

“It’s comforting to know that in some small way we are able to help that town help themselves,” said Barry Larsen from McKinney.

This is why less than a week after finishing their work in West, this group of volunteer firefighters began training for the next disaster.

“We train like we perform,” said Larsen.

For three days, the team of nearly 40 members took part in an intense mock in drill at its training facility, dubbed Disaster City, in College Station.

The mock scenario was bomb had taken down a large office building.

Actors playing victims were place inside a large pile of broken concrete simulating the fallen building.

The Texas Task Force One’s job was to rescue them.  Making the exercise more challenging, the rescue team was told the bomb had radioactive material.

The team goes to great lengths to have its training closely resemble real life emergencies.

Saunders said, “It doesn’t take much in these drills for one of our guys to start thinking back about what it was like on one of those deployments.”

In this drill, the victims trapped were rescued.

On real deployments, it doesn’t always work out that way but the Texas Task Force One has never left without an ending.

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