With Hurricane Sally set to make landfall, 40 members of Tampa Bay’s Task Force 3 hit the road on Tuesday to help the northern Gulf coast with impending relief efforts.

Task Force 3 is made up of members from Hillsborough County Fire Rescue, Tampa Fire Rescue and St. Pete Fire Rescue.

The crew that left on Tuesday are part of the Swiftwater Rescue Team. They departed in a convoy with 20 vehicles and seven boats, prepared to rescue people from standing floods and fast-moving moving water, if needed. 

It’s a mission they’ve embarked on before – but this is the first time they’ve answered the call during a pandemic.

Every crew member had to test negative for COVID-19 before heading out.

“That will kind of keep us safe because we do kind of go in close quarters when we’re in the trucks and in the tents we might have to sleep in too,” Captain Aaron Gross of Hillsborough Fire Rescue explained. “There might be 12 people in the tent, so reassuring everyone is negative is good”

Jimmy Patronis, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal, deployed the team from Hillsborough County and Task Force 5 from Jacksonville. The crews will be working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida National Guard on rescue missions.

They will be stationed in Tallahassee until they know where they’re needed most.