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Martin County Rapid Response Team returns from Florida Keys following Hurricane Irma

Posted at 11:45 PM, Sep 20, 2017

More than a dozen Martin County deputies are back home after spending five long, sleepless days in the Florida Keys.

Members of the sheriff’s office’s Rapid Response Team answered the call from state and Monroe County leaders, asking for help relieving the exhausted law enforcement officers, and emotional residents following Hurricane Irma.

RELATED: Palm Beach County firefighters return after week in the Keys

Sheriff William Snyder put his more than 40 member team on standby as soon as Hurricane Irma started approaching Florida.

Nineteen members took the first shift, traveling to Big Pine Key, an area they were assigned to respond to that desperately needed assistance.

“We were willing to go down to the hardest hit area or the area that needed the most help,” Fritchie said.

First, the Rapid Response Team gave local deputies relief south of the seven-mile bridge.

“They needed outside help. Their lives were completely turned upside down. So, not only were they dealing with the public, they also needed to deal with their own lives,” said Detective Matt Fritchie.

Then, their focus turned to safety and people.

This team took the night shift, watching for looters and other public safety concerns. They also handed out food, ice, water, and helped residents make phone calls to loved ones.

“In our time of being there, we came across several hundred families,” Fritchie said.

When they hit the road from Martin County, they did not know what they would come across.

“It was difficult to even imagine what we were going to encounter down there.”

They got a first hand perspective of just how extensive the cleanup will be.

“We saw devastation from a few shutters or shingles removed from a house to homes completely destroyed,” Fritchie said. “There are people down there who I’m sure will never be able to repair what was lost.”

The 19 deputies who spent the last 5 days in the keys will be making their way back in waves through Friday.

Another 19 deputies will be taking their place for the next few days to continue to help where needed.