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Pinellas County, cities provide help for victims of Hurricane Matthew

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Two dozen fire and emergency medical services personnel left Pinellas for the east coast Thursday to prepare for the aftermath response of Hurricane Matthew.

Pinellas County Emergency Medical Services and Fire Administration coordinated the departure of the Fire Engine Strike Team and Technical Rescue Unit from Clearwater to the final staging area in Lakeland.

The effort was made possible by the strong partnerships among the county and municipalities. The Fire Engine Strike Team is made up of firefighters from the Dunedin, East Lake, Palm Harbor, Seminole and Largo fire departments. The Technical Rescue Unit is comprised of firefighters/technical rescue technicians from the Pinellas Park, Largo and Clearwater fire departments.

Once the storm passes, the emergency response teams will conduct search and rescue, provide paramedic care, extinguish fires and assist communities as needed.

“These type of severe weather incidents like Hurricane Matthew are so large that it takes the partnership of multiple agencies to accomplish this type of mission and level of support,” EMS and fire administration division director Craig Hare said. “We are able to do this for our neighbors without changing our fire and emergency services ability to be prepared for potential storm impacts in Pinellas County.”

The emergency response teams will remain in direct communication with the county’s EMS and fire administration to coordinate efforts and identify needs.

The county is also providing other hurricane-related support:

— U.S. Coast Guard aircraft from Miami and Allegiant Air aircraft from Orlando Sanford International Airport will be parked at the St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to be kept safe during the storm.

— Pinellas County Animal Services staff members have agreed to take 16 dogs and 15 cats from Osceola County Animal Services. The animals will be accepted into the adoption program once transported.

— The Convention and Visitors Bureau is working with tourism partners in information sharing about hotel room availability through the Visit Florida’s Emergency Accommodations Module, which allows hotel partners from non-affected areas to submit hotel availability and rates for the use of those who are being displaced.

“Both in times of calm and of emergency response, Pinellas County supports its belief that with partners we can do more,” Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice said. “We are pleased to help and to work with our municipal partners in delivering assistance.”

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