South GA firefighters participate in 'search and rescue' training

VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) - Firefighters from across Southwest Georgia participated in training to become members of the Georgia Search and Rescue (GSAR) Task Force 2 team.

The training was held at the Valdosta Fire Training Facility.

The group was evaluated during a physical performance test based on skills they learned during a confined space technical rescue class.

Eight firefighters were tested on Friday and 25 more participated in testing on Monday.

"We need a total of 75 members for our GSAR team so that we can rapidly deploy out in a time of need," said Lt. Justin Ply. "We're getting in that time of year where we will be in high demand, especially during hurricane season. We can't pull the same people every time and take away from our communities. We need a bank of people built up so that we have multiple resources and can rotate teams if we are on an extended deployment somewhere."

Most of the work done by GSAR is on a volunteer basis.

The team could be deployed for several weeks at a time, if not longer.

In past years, the team has responded to natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005, tornadoes in Baker County and the wildfires in Ware and Atkinson counties in 2007.

More recently, the team responded during Hurricane Irma and the Adel and Albany tornadoes.

"The GSAR team being in Valdosta right on the Florida line and near the coast is a valuable asset for the State of Georgia. We can deploy out and be at the coast within four hours to start helping," Ply said.

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