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Ohio Task Force 1 returns home from western Kentucky search efforts

Ohio Task Force 1 returns home
Posted at 10:25 PM, Dec 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-16 23:44:54-05

DAYTON, Ohio — Ohio Task Force 1 is back in the Buckeye State after nearly 50 members traveled to western Kentucky to help with tornado search efforts.

While they were not gone for long, their three days of search and rescue were still impactful. The team assessed 1,900 buildings in Mayfield and Dawson Springs, two of the cities hardest hit by the deadly storm.

"We've worked building collapses, we've worked hurricanes, and tornadoes as well," task force leader Jim O'Connor said. "In terms of a tornado, this is probably the largest devastation we've seen from a tornado."

Crews searched from the air and on the ground, assisted by several cadaver dogs like Melvin.

"His nose is so much more sensitive than our ability to look and find," K-9 handler Heather Ferguson said. "He can clear an entire neighborhood [faster] than the time it would take us."

Among the 45 team members who made the trip was Cincinnati Fire lieutenant and rescue team manager Mike Lotz.

"We collect a tremendous amount of data able to give to the state of Kentucky to help them focus their efforts on where the most damage was," Lotz said. "We put boots on the ground, and touched every structure we worked."

The task force was not able to find any victims during their mission, something Lotz called "a win."

"I'm pretty confident that everywhere we worked, including Dawson Springs, if there was someone to find we would've found them," Lotz said.

O'Connor said not identifying any victims can often bring people peace of mind, knowing the area has been checked thoroughly.

"We see some difficult things," O'Connor said. "It's the reassurance of what we can bring to the families there, that's where we focus."

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