TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A Florida firefighter is being hailed a hero after a photo captured him rescuing a young girl who was trapped in floodwaters from Hurricane Ian, First Coast News reported.
The St. Augustine Fire Department said it completed 26 rescue missions during the storm. The firefighter, Hardus Oberholzer said he was involved in at least 10 to 15 of the rescues, but didn’t have a specific count.
“I knew they were just kind of racking up,” he told First Coast. “They were almost on a waiting list. We finished one, we dropped them off, turned around, and went off.”
“They were all kind of the same,” Oberholzer added. “People, they got caught, they didn’t think it was going to be as bad, then at the end of the day, they realized they needed to get out.”
The fire department shared a photo on Facebook showing Oberholzer rescuing a little girl over on the island side of the Bridge of Lions during high tide Thursday afternoon.
The firefighter waded through waist-deep water to bring the girl to safety.
The father of two said the rescue hit close to home since the girl is the same age as his youngest son.
“She’ll have a little piece of my heart forever. It’s something in their eyes,” he said. “When they truly are at their worst, we show up and have to be at our best every time. Something I’ll remember for the rest of my life and I hope they do too.”
St. Augustine Fire Chief Carlos Aviles praised his department’s efforts in a Facebook post over the weekend.
“This week that new mission statement was tested to the extreme, and I could not be more proud of how our firefighters performed. While these two images perfectly embody the essence of our mission, I have received dozens of first hand accounts of how helpful and present our firefighters have been,” he said.