TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A Tampa Fire Rescue Lieutenant and his K-9 partner have joined the many first responders from around the country who are in Hawaii after the deadly and destructive wildfires.
“Some of it doesn’t compute with the brain, some of the things you’re seeing how and why” Lt. Brian Smithey told News Channel 8.
Lt. Smithey is a K-9 specialist with Florida Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 2. He’s been teamed up with his K-9, Probie for a year and a half.
“For Probie, he’s young in his career,” Smithey said. “His first major deployment would have been Hurricane Ian.”
During his more than two decades with the state’s task force, Smithey has responded to multiple major hurricanes.
But this is the first time he has been deployed to the aftermath of wildfires.
“Basically kind of looks like a hurricane,” Smithey said, “except everything is burned. Also, this fire was extremely high heat, and seeing some of the different structures, vehicles that have kind of just melted away.”
K-9 Probie specializes in searching for human remains, so while in Maui, their focus is bringing closure to the wildfire victims’ families.
“We have a job to do and we try to stay focused on that,” Smithey said. “Even though hard as it is you attempt the best you can to keep the emotions out of it, but you always do have those but it’s all about staying focused to the training we’ve done and have.”
Smithey told News Channel 8 he has never vacationed in Hawaii.
“You know after meeting the people and some of the local people and that it’s a place I’d definitely look forward to coming back to,” Smithey said. “People here have really embraced us.”
At least 114 people have been confirmed dead in the Maui wildfires.
Smithey said he and Probie will assist with the recovery efforts in Hawaii until they are told to go home.